Food Journal

Simple Magical Breakfasts are Worth the Effort

A coloful weekend breakfast.

A photo posted by Chedie Cruz (@chedie) on

I wake up very early, groggy and disconcerted to prepare breakfast and my husband’s lunchbox every weekday. I don’t mind waking up early but I bet anybody, who prepares the household’s food, wish they could have a cook to do all that cooking in the early morning. It’s something that could pass as a pleasant experience or a chore, depending on how tired you were the day before.

I don’t mind cooking but I do love those weekend moments when you wake up feeling mysteriously refreshed and you feel the urge to prepare breakfast fit for a king. That was how I felt this morning. I wasn’t craving for anything extravagant. In fact, I went out to buy Breakfast Panini from Good Earth, a couple of sweets from Co-op, and well, catch some Pokemon along the way.

Yes, ladies and gents, I’m a Pokemon Go player. I don’t get to play much outside since I don’t have unlimited bandwidth but I do enjoy getting those freebies via Pokestops. So if a Pokemon tends to spawn nearby, I might as well catch them, right?

Going back to the subjects at hand, breakfasts are like a ritual to me. When lunch and dinner can be as simple or extravagant, taken early or late, breakfasts are a MUST to partake. They’re what I deem as day energizers. They must be taken as freshly cooked or prepared as you can because their ‘freshness’ is short-lived, making their gastronomic experience less appreciated that it somehow affects how the rest of your day will pan out. It’s like breakfasts hold a magical concoction to make or break the beginning of a new day.

Thus, when I feel creating some form of presentation for my weekend breakfast, I really love it when my husband or somebody else appreciates my efforts. Otherwise, I just lose the initiative to make an effort for the same person, which happened too many times in the past. My cooking will never be at par with grandiose breakfasts like the Zillion Dollar Lobster Fritatta (costs $1000), or the Krispy Kreme Doughnut (costs $1685), but I think any efforts are worth the merit. It’s the love that counts, right?

The picture on this post consists of Breakfast Panini from Good Earth, a couple of colorful, delicate Macaroons from Ollia, flavored bread sticks from Pocky, and decaf Coffee.

Cheers to more breakfast magic ahead!

Food Journal

Sumo Lounge Review

Sumo Lounge Downtown Calgary

It has become a trend for my husband and I that when we couldn’t decide where to dine outside or if we treat others, our default choice is a Japanese restaurant. It’s not we’re being biased (as Asians). Personally, I love the idea of trying different flavors in small amounts for the variety and novelty of getting an eyeful of beautiful aesthetics as well as orchestrating a play in tantalizing your tastebuds with new taste combinations. So what better way to do that but with sushi. Bite sized delicacies until you find the right flavor just for you.

Last Sunday had been a fulfilling day as I attended earlier that morning Tita Ning’s eldest daughter’s, Kelsey, bridal shower. It was a plentiful morning of gifts, well wishes, with lots of pretty and filling food. Macaroni salad, quiche, cute sandwiches, fruits, smoothies, etc. It was the perfect brunch selection for a bridal shower.

Then later that day, my husband and I treated some of our relatives to dinner in honor of Tita Ana finally fulfilling her wish to visit family in Canada. My husband and I took Tita Ana, her son, Sieg, Tito Luis and Tita Ning to Sumo Lounge found in Eau Clair mall at Downtown Calgary.

Sumo Lounge immediately gives off the Asian flair vibe, starting from the bamboo stalks by their doorway, slightly reddish Asian interior hues and the giant Lucky Cat that stood out amongst Asian decors. The ambiance is simply relaxing, although not at par to a Zen environment we often associate Japanese culture to. It was a first for us to come on Sunday dinner and I concluded it was a slow day because there were only a few staff in sight and they didn’t immediately came to our table when I signaled for their service. But it was nothing to be angry about as they were very friendly and efficient.

Sumo Lounge Shrimp Tempura

After ordering the default Miso soup, we ordered Shrimp Tempura. This is a MUST order in Sumo Lounge. We initially made 2 orders of Shrimp Tempura, each plates consisting of 4 large pieces of perfectly fried, crunchy Tempura. Unlike other tempuras wherein the shape is perfectly molded into an elongated stick of deep-fried golden-brown goodness, Sumo’s Shrimp Tempura had this splattered look of fried batter erupting from all sides. It is a unique tempura look and its crunchiness is something to remember. If there is anything to complain about this dish is its messy attribute, but it’s hardly something to be picky about when you find yourself cleaning your plate of crunchy batter pieces for more of that crispy fried goodness. This dish is so good we ordered another plate for everyone to have seconds.

Sumo Lounge Ozeki Platter

When there are 4 or more people on your table, you can order one of the Sushi or Sashimi platter. We had an Ozeki platter, which consisted of different sushis inclusive of 2 Salmon, 2 White Tuna, 2 Prawns, and Surf Clams with Cucumber, California Roll and half Sumo House Maki. Just seeing that pretty ensemble can whet up any appetite.

Tita Ana ordered Sticky Chicken. Slowly roasted chicken breast in Sweet Chili Sauce served with Rice and Vegetables.

Sumo Lounge Caterpillar roll

A highlight of that night was the Caterpillar roll. Unagi (freshwater eel), cream cheese, avocado, tempura flakes and crispy green onion sushi. My husband initially thought this was an Asian exotic delicacy similar to Philippines’ tamilok (woodworm) or famous balut. Thank goodness it came out this pretty depiction of a green caterpillar with thin avocado slices precariously arranged at the top of each sushi piece. Each piece is so soft and delicate, I swear, each chew felt like the sushi was melting inside my mouth. I never imagined avocado and cream cheese harmonizing so well with Japanese rice while the unagi, tempura flakes and crispy green onions gave the right crunchy texture and salty accent to each piece. It was like a fusion of East meets West minus strong meat flavors, thus, proving that the Asian belief in subtlety can work its wonders anywhere, even in food. My husband and I agreed this is something we will order again in the future.

Sumo Lounge Green Tea Ice Cream
Sumo Lounge Deep Fried Ice Cream

We ordered many desserts to try, namely, Mango Cheesecake, Green Tea Cheesecake, Green Tea Ice Cream, and Deep Fried Ice Cream. I consider Deep Fried Ice Cream as a novelty because it is not something you can easily purchase outside. The crispy, slightly salty deep fried exterior is the perfect cocoon for the creamy goodness within.

Sumo Lounge Family Dinner

All in all, the dinner was a success. Good food, unlimited stories, good company, and efficient service, what more could you as for. Sumo Lounge has become a personal favorite for my sushi urges. There are more sushi I aim to try in this restaurant so expect me to be back soon.

Sumo Lounge

200 Barclay Parade SW, Calgary, AB
T2P 4R4, Canada T2P 4R3

sumoloungecalgary.com

Food Journal

Barcelona Tavern Review

Barcelona Tavern

The best thing about finding new places to eat is being surprised against common norms. When I read the word ‘tavern’, I think of a noisy place with rowdy people drinking and eating to their heart’s content.

Which it was to some extent. The restaurant’s exterior is downright deceiving to the noise level I realized I’m not used to anymore. There goes my good younger years. Stepping in through revolving doors, it was an onslaught of conversations, music, and as expected, alcohol. Big screen TV’s showing the sports channels, tapas abundance, clinking of glasses, and laughter from each table. It became obvious Barcelona Tavern is the hangout for corporate people to end the day with beer and finger foods.

I expected a quieter ambiance, but it was okay. I considered the noise a type of relaxation to unwind after a hard day’s work and enjoying the $1 oyster deal, which happens every Wednesday.

Their menu consists lots of finger foods that are good for sharing, beer, cocktails, and desserts that go well with everything else. We were also graced by a superbly attentive server, who often checked up on us despite her constant moving around in that sexy dress and heels. Might I say, I love the sassyness of the servers. I observed them moving around tables and being the perfect hostess to their clientele.

Steak and Frites

West Coast Oysters

STK and Frites. AAA Alberta Butchers Cut, Kennebec Potato, Horseradish Chimichurri.

The beef was so oh-deliciously juicy I wanted rice to go along with it. But no, we had to respect the cuisine and we ended up still hungry after finishing the plate together with a bucket of West Coast Oysters. Thus, we ordered this next item below.

Spanish Slammer

Spanish Slammer. Brioche bun, Braised Pork, Apple Stew, Avocado Salsa Verde. It’s not always I find a dish that has fruit, vegetables and pork and still tastes divine. If there is anything that sets this bun apart from similar dishes, it was the juicy pork. Each chew felt like the pork is melting into your mouth, simmering its juices into the other ingredients. I easily finished my Spanish Slammer in a few bites, but it was very filling I couldn’t ask for more.

Classic Churros

Classic Churros. Barcelona Doughnut, Cinnamon Sugar, with Hazelnut Chocolate and Dulce De Leche dips. Churros has always been a welcome treat for me because it is a dessert I rarely get access to. A subtly sweet deep-friend pastry is the perfect enter for our tavern experience.

When we stepped out into the sun after having our early dinner, we welcomed the breeze and noise of downtown settling at the end of the day. People going home from offices, lines forming at bus stops and train stations, and some winding down with some cool beer and snacks. We like Barcelona Tavern. Though we might have grown too old for the kind of noise a tavern brings, we believe we will come back to this place bringing our friends along for a short get together.

Besides, I think Barcelona Tavern is the perfect place to be yourself, not minding noise level protocol and just to unwind. Be ready to be pampered by pretty servers, dine on Mediterranean inspired dishes, and most of all, soak up into the day-ender afternoon vibe to prepare for the evening ahead.

Barcelona Tavern

501 8 Ave SW, Calgary,
Alberta, Canada

barcelonatavern.com

Food Journal

The Blue House Review

Blue House Brazilian Hot Plate
Blue House Brazilian Hot Plate
Photo Credit: Blue House Restaurant

It was date night. This was a long time planned affair wherein my husband and I treated ourselves to a fine dining experience of Latin cuisine, which we frankly had no idea of. I was merely excited to the idea of going out, be pampered and lulled into a classy environment, gastronomic ecstasy and impeccable service. The Blue House definitely accomplished all of these expectaions.

I was surprised when we arrived at The Blue House. Its exterior was so unassuming that my husband and I almost missed it. I thought it was some shop while my husband thought it was a liquor store. The restaurant’s exterior blended to its nearby buildings it almost looked like an extension to a small commercial compound. Bottomline, you wouldn’t think of it as a restaurant. But that is a negligible factor. Who cares about the exterior when the inside transports you into a completely different realm of shiny wooden floors, candlelit corners, a well-stocked bar area, live acoustic music, dim lights, and food that is of top-notch caliber.

The Blue House Restaurant
The Blue House Restuarant
Photo Credit: Mercedes Cruz

The Blue House Restaurant Bar
The Blue House Restaurant Bar
Photo Credit: Mercedes Cruz

It was still bright outside when we arrived for our dinner reservation since it is Spring in Canada. The place is quite small compared to similar restaurants of its caliber, but it has a smart floor layout, wherein the area facing the bar takes in most of the light from the outside, while the other side is cocooned and shadowed by a division, creating this darker space of dim lights, candlelit tables, and a hypnotizing fireplace. This dimmer area is perfectly suited for people, who wants to feel the romantic or nightlife atmosphere despite the very late sunset.

The Blue House Ambiance
The Blue House Ambiance
Photo Credit: Erwin Cruz
The Blue House Dining
The Blue House Dining
Photo Credit: Erwin Cruz

Some people might find the tables too close for comfort. You’d hear the conversation from the other table. But you’d hardly pay attention to nearby gossip because of the live performances by live Flamenco guitarist singing Spanish and Latin songs. When I asked the server the schedule of live performances, she said a live guitarist is always on during Friday at around 6:30 or 7 in the evening. To fully enjoy Blue House, take note of their live performances.

And might I say something of the impeccable service? We felt truly spoiled when we were always attended too despite the place filling up with people. I observed the servers move with efficiency from table to table, always with a smile on their faces.

As for our meals, might I say this got to be a date wherein I probably ate the most amount of the juiciest meat in one sitting. Not because we ordered a lot. On the contrary, my husband and I each ordered a main course, and drinks. We thought of ordering an appetizer but decided against it because we were aware of the Canadian food portions which we haven’t gotten used to yet.

Garlic Herb Bread
Photo Credit: Erwin Cruz

Crusy Herb Bread with Butter. Rustic, crusty with garlic and subtle tangy taste. Perfectly toasted and goes harmoniously well with butter. A perfect starter for the upcoming heavy meal.

Carne Con Camarones
Photo Credit: Erwin Cruz

Carne Con Camarones. Tiger Prawns and Alberta prime rib smothered in a red wine sauce. Served with roasted potatoes and vegetables. I ordered mine medium rare as I was excited to taste how the meat’s natural juices would blend with the sauce.

I – DIED. Then I joined a piece of prawn in my mouth to chew with the meat… I – went – to – HEAVEN. The sauce naturally blends the flavor of meat and seafood into this one God-given ensemble of juices that you won’t stop eating until your plate is empty. This delicious dish is an invitation for gluttony. I wished I had a bigger appetite.

Brazilian Hot Plate
Photo Credit: Erwin Cruz

Brazilian Hot Plate. Garlic Parmesan Sirloin, Cajun Chicken Breast & Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin. Side of Seasonal Vegetables and the Blue House’s Famous Ceviche Sauce. The perfect dish to go for if you are a meat lover.

The Ceviche is a salsa-like style of dip that is often served with tacos or tostados is South American countries. Blue House’s Ceviche Sauce has a very distinctive chili and citric flavor one has to be careful in the amount added to his meal. Nevertheless, this sauce got a two-thumbs up in bringing the Sirloin into a whole new level of premium meaty goodness. The vegetables and rice are a must to have to this meal to balance the power of the sauce and meat. Overall, we feel this dish is very well thought off and we would definitely want to order it again next time. We’ll have to be extra careful with the ceviche sauce though. My husband and I both have low spice tolerance.

Creamy Cheesecake
Photo Credit: Erwin Cruz

Creamy Cheesecake. Creamy white cheesecake topped with savory cherry sauce.

There is one way to winningly cap of a hearty, juicy and sinfully meaty dinner. Order a soft and delectable cheesecake. Don’t be fooled by its size. A small bite sends you into a luscious affair of riding clouds on a sunny day.

I have to add this video bit I took of the performer. His rendition of ‘Guantanamera’ had me and my hubby sing this song over and over again when we went home. Dining in The Blue House Restaurant is definitely something worth recommending.

The Blue House

2, 3843 19 Street NW
Calgary
Alberta T2L 2B3
Website: bluehousecafe.ca

Food Journal

Sweets are a Girl’s Best Friend, not Diamonds. Especially During That Time of the Month

Epiphanie products, Timbits, and a good book.

Diamonds twinkle in a dark room. Glittering and mesmerizing, this miracle of nature and handicraft of man outshines anything else to become the perfect gift of forever. But not even diamonds can appease a woman’s tendencies to ignore, spat, be hyper, cry sensitivity when that monthly visitor forces its way in and delivers a package of emotions no man will ever understand.

My body can work in three ways when that visitor arrives:

First scenario: when Dysmonorrhea takes me down. This is the time when I feel pain all over. I cannot concentrate. I feel bloated. I eat a lot of junk food. I’m cranky. I get weak. I will forget everything to lie down and gorge in front of the TV.

Second scenario: I get hyperactive. I’m like a monkey with a sugar rush. I get happy and giggly all day long. I still eat a lot and I’d cook to my heart’s content. From our 19th floor balcony, I’ll greet and wave to the city of Calgary while shaking my booty.

Third scenario: this is the in-between. I have energy to do any work, but I’ll get flashes of minor migraines throughout the day. My back will hurt a lot. I will request for my hubby to rub ointment on my head and back to alleviate the pain. Then afterwards, I’ll inhale the ointment like I’m on high.

Regardless of the scenario, I’d always crave for something sweet. To satisfy my current ‘monthly visitor’ cravings yesterday, I went to Epiphanie, a nearby chocolate store that offers the most memorable gourmet specialty chocolates; superior chocolates specializing freshness and quality. I’m always welcomed by that enticing chocolate aroma whenever I visit that intead of perusing over the shelves as I normally would in similar chocolate boutiques, the very first thing I’d say over the counter is “One Ecuadorian Delight please.”

Ecuadorian Delight is the taste of sumptuous floral-fruity flavor that comes from 65% dark chocolate from Ecuador blended with Ecuadorian cocoa powder and organic cane sugar.

Now doesn’t that just sound heavenly?  I perused over displays of exquisite, mouth-watering looking chocolates while my drink was being made. I ended up buying a chocolate piece. Epiphanie always makes me feel warm and comfortable that I see it as my chocolate home in downtown Calgary. It helps that the owners, who manage the shop themselves, are very friendly and charming. Do chocolate and sweet shops always bring out the charm in people? 🙂

Epiphanie Chocolates
Epiphanie Delighful Chocolates

Carrying my hot chocolate cup in my hands, I sipped this warm delightful drink while walking to another store to purchase a complimentary sweet food… Timbits. These are bite-sized confectionaries that aren’t doughnut holes but are made with their own special cutter. Already feeling high, I let the Tim Horton personnel mix the varieties up. As long as I was eating something sweet, I was happy.  I also went to a Mach store beside Tim Hortons and bought a large bottle of Ginger Ale. I was on a roll.

Walking home I felt a spring in my steps. I was so giddy I forgot about the minor migraine and backaches that was troubling throughout the day. Hot chocolate, bite-sized doughnuts, a chocolate bar, a good book, and a bottle of sweet ginger ale waiting in the refrigerator, what more can a girl ask for?

Long live Sweets!

Life Notes

It’s time to Man Up Pinoys, Duterte isn’t our Savior

duterte-quote-2

Never in my life did I stay tuned on Philippines elections.

I never missed voting during the elections. It was the Filipino duty that my dad made sure my sister and I exercised at all costs. Even during the times I told him there wasn’t any candidate that peaked my interest, he would wake my sister and me early in order to go to the precinct and have our finger inked for candidates I didn’t felt strongly about. Afterward, we would take our time eating quail eggs from a nearby sari-sari store while chatting with neighbors amidst a very busy street strewn over with candidates’ pamphlets. Those were the times. 

Just when I learned about Miriam Defensor Santiago and Rodrigo Duterte both running for the presidency, I wasn’t in my country anymore to cast my vote and it was too late when I learned could actually do it from Calgary since I’m still not a Canadian citizen.  Never had I followed the elections as closely as I did with this one not merely for the sake of supporting these two candidates, but for the hope I felt was coming from the Filipinos.

Once upon a time, I was a contented Filipino. I wasn’t rich but I had a stable job. I have enough friends. I took care of my family. I was aware of the graft and corruption. I was paranoid whenever I have to go home late at night from a place I don’t know. I dislike the inefficiency of public service. I abhor the traffic, especially during the monsoon. The ever increasing cost of goods I was able to manage. I tried my best to stay away from public smoking areas and garbage was strewn everywhere. I learned to ignore catcalls and to walk really fast when commuting home from work. I survived all of those. If there is one trait that Filipinos can be proud of, it’s our resiliency to adapt despite any obstacles that came our way even when we felt downtrodden and forsaken by our previous leaders.

Then I came to live in Canada. For the more than two years I’ve spent here, I came to realize why a lot of Filipinos, especially those living and working abroad, chose Duterte. It isn’t because he was a breath of fresh air. Whether you liked him or not, he inspired to change from being the way he is… a bit vulgar, crass, but an honest thug. He vocalized in layman’s terms the illnesses of the society. He displayed humbleness and tact. He didn’t sugar coat his words. He knows what he is saying. He knows what he I doing. He is the leader all OFWs want to have in order to come back to a country that can potentially be at par with Singapore and other first world countries. Filipino living abroad has seen what discipline can do for a country and that is what the Philippines need. Discipline. We had exercised Democracy for as long as we can remember. Though Democracy has its merits, our current government and society have shown  what lack of Discipline can do. Fear, dishonesty, and chaos.

We can’t expect things change to happen overnight, but we need that leader to inspire that change. Duterte is a leader and a father waiting for a chance to spank us hard on the bum.

And boy, will we be spanked on the bum. Many Filipinos had gotten used to working with loopholes to get what they want. Kung makakalusot, edi gawin. I’m not only talking about people in politics. This is for people in general.

There was a time I was strolling  at SM Makati when I heard a man, who looked like to be in his seniors, shouting obscenities at the security guard, saying he had all the right to smoke wherever he wanted since he is paying his taxes and is a resident of Makati. The guard was telling the man they were on a No Smoking area. The guard’s face showed he was clearly at a loss to fix the situation without offending an elderly. When I passed by them, I turned my head to the side and saw in clear, in bold red letters, a No Smoking sign. Clear as day. The blind may have seen it.  This is a simple example of how something has gotten used to doing things they want disregarding law and authority. I felt so sorry for the guard.

I’m not saying the Filipinos are solely the ones at fault. We learned to survive amidst corrupt leaders. Our poverty stricken fellowmen, who pursued illegal means to survive, only did what they can to put food on their table. But the degradation has gone for too long. Everyone, from every level of the society, has felt the deterioration of the Filipino spirit.

But the 2016 elections turned all that around.

duterte-quote-3

The leader is in place. Duterte is already there to be a strict father and instill discipline. Filipinos must follow. Let go of destructive habits. Learn to follow rules. Respect authority. Don’t make excuses. I’m not saying Duterte is the Philippines’ savior, but he is a prepared to instill discipline the country desperately needs. Let’s give him and ourselves, a chance. We might rebel for awhile since we are human after all. We are creatures of habit. We don’t want our routine to be ruined. But change does that, even those driven by good intentions.

I’m not openly saying this just because I live in Calgary. My husband and I have plans to go back to the Philippines since our families and closest friends are there. Our hearts still call for our country to prosper. We want the best for our fellowmen and we want to come back to a safe and rich country.

God bless the Philippines.