Saturday, August 22, 2015

What the Truck?! July 10, 2015

There are so many events happening in Edmonton this weekend! Edmonton Airshow, 4th Street Promenade Al Fresco Block Party, and Edmonton International Fringe Festival are just some of the events you can check out (click here for a complete list of events and activities to do in the city this weekend). On my list this weekend is What the Truck?!, a food truck extravaganza event happening Saturday August 22 (today!) from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Telus Field (10233 96 Ave NW).

What the Truck?! celebrates food trucks and food truck culture by bringing together many food trucks in one location. There have been three What the Truck?! events this year, with two more left for the season (one today and one on September 11, 2015). What the Truck?! has become a favourite event to attend because I love being able to try a wide variety of food truck food at one time.

What the Truck?! at Northlands Park.

This blog post is about the What the Truck?! event I checked out in July at Northlands Park which was held in conjunction with Park After Dark. This was my first time attending a What the Truck?! event at a location other than Churchill Square, so I was really excited to see how the evening would go at a new place.

This event was also the first time testing a new ticket-based line management system which help the trucks communicate to attendees when they are (close to) running out of a particular menu item. I thought this new method was great, although it does require more planning and looking at the menus beforehand. 

Duck Fat Fries.

My goal for this event was to try food from food trucks that were new to What the Truck?!. My first pick for the evening: Duck Fat Fries ($8) from Northlands' own food truck 1879 Where Taste Begins. On top of fresh cut kennebec fries were elephant garlic, herbs grown from Northlands Urban Farm, and Bernie sauce. I loved how this was full of garlic flavour, while the sauce had a nice tang to it. Sadly, I found this menu item to be a little disappointing overall because the fries alone didn't seem freshly fried and lacked a desirable crispiness. Essentially, the fries only tasted good if there was sauce to accompany it, but I also felt there wasn't enough of the sauce.

Jamaican Beef Patty.

Next I tried a Jamaican Beef Patty ($7) from Meat Street Pies, another food truck new to What the Truck?!. Inside the flaky pastry were ground beef, scotch bonnet pepper, and onions with spices and spicy herbs. Taking my first bite, I was surprised at how flaky the pastry was! Superrrrrr flaky. The flakiness was a bit much for mine and CJ's liking, although we did enjoy the ground beef and the level of heat and spiciness we got with every bite. We ended up drinking all our water trying to finish this off!

Mixed Berry Sorbet.

After the spicy kick we got with the Jamaican beef patty, CJ and I just wanted something refreshing to cool down with. I suggested Dolce & Banana's Mixed Berry Sorbet ($4.50) which was made up of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries - pretty much my favourite fruits in one cup. I loved the texture of the sorbet and the combination of all the berries: a little sweet and a little tart, but overall very delicious.

Dinner with a side of horse. Hehe.

What the Truck?! at Northlands Park was really fun, and my favourite part of the event was definitely the location this time around! A warm summer evening grabbing a few bites with Park After Dark happening nearby made for a memorable Friday date with CJ. Line-ups were much shorter at this event compared to the kick-off event at Churchill Square back in May, so it certainly allowed for more chances to try more food. Even though I tried fewer food items than I had hoped, What the Truck?! at Northlands Park is my favourite What the Truck?! event I've attended so far! Heading to Northlands Park was a nice change in scenery for CJ and I. 

A reminder: today's What the Truck?! event at Telus Field is the last chance to enter to win a Golden Ticket which lets the winners enjoy a 20 minute head start and skip the lines for the final September 11, 2015 event. There are two ways to win a ticket, which you can read about here

Here is my entry to win a Golden Ticket. Use the hashtag #wttgoldenticket on social media (Instagram/Twitter/Facebook): 

See you foodies at Telus Field tonight! 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Las Vegas: Ciao Ciao Cafe & Bar

Another popular place to get a cold treat on the Las Vegas Strip is at Ciao Ciao Cafe & Bar, located deep inside The Forum Shops (specifically across the huge H&M) at Caesars Palace. It is not immediately accessible from outside, so this kiosk is ideal to check out after some shopping. 


The main offering at Ciao Ciao Cafe & Bar is gelato... and lots of it. There are multiple glass cases with so many different flavours of gelato, it's hard to choose just one flavour! They also sell drinks and more filling food like pizza, nachos, and hot dogs. 

Mango Sorbetto and Strawberry Sorbetto.

The gelato here is a little pricey. The Regular, or smallest, size (1 flavour) costs $6.25, Mid-Size (1-2 flavours) costs $7.99, V.I.P. (1, 2, or 3 flavours) costs $9.99 and is the most popular size, and Terminator (1, 2, or 3 flavours) costs $12.99. I wasn't going to buy any at first, but I couldn't resist! I ended up choosing the Strawberry Sorbetto in the regular size for myself, while my sister-in-law went with the Mango Sorbetto. 

Strawberry Sorbetto.

Using a tiny spoon to pick up tiny scoops of gelato many times really gives the illusion that you're eating more than you actually are. I thought my strawberry sorbetto was refreshing and not too sweet (maybe a little sour, but not in a terribly bad way). I tried some of my sister-in-law's mango sorbetto and I loved how sweeter it was compared to mine. Was this worth the $6.25? For the flavour I picked, probably not. I would recommend getting the V.I.P. size instead since it comes in a much larger cup and is only a few dollars more. 

The gelato at Ciao Ciao Cafe & Bar is something I would purchase if I wanted to treat myself. I wouldn't consider this shop a go-to place for a cool treat just because of its expensive price. However, I thought the sorbetto was of high quality so definitely give Ciao Ciao Cafe & Bar a visit if you're in the mood for some gelato/sorbetto. Just be prepared to pay a slightly hefty price (especially if you're just getting the regular size!). 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Las Vegas: BLVD Creamery

The desert heat in Las Vegas can get really intense, so I'm glad there are tons of ice cream/gelato options available on The Strip. While on a night time walk with my family, I decided to stop by BLVD Creamery for a cold treat. 

The menu.

BLVD Creamery is an ice cream shop located at the Monte Carlo hotel. The ice cream can be served in a cup, cone, or as an ice cream sandwich. There are also alcohol infused milkshakes for the adults. 

I'm afraid I didn't take any shots of the interior, but I thought the shop looked really nice - bright lights, fun and colourful details, and an entire wall dedicated to their merchandise (which included stuffed animals!). 

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.

It was almost a few minutes until their closing time at 11:00 PM, so there wasn't a lot of selection left. I went for my all time favourite ice cream flavour: mint chocolate chip. A single scoop cost me $3.50, but a triple scoop for $7 is their best value. 

I love ice cream.

BLVD Creamery's version of mint chocolate chip isn't the best I've had, but it was still really tasty and perfect for keeping cool. The ice cream was also smooth and creamy, while the single scoop was actually a good portion size for me. 


In addition to ice cream, BLVD Creamery also offers other desserts in a display case next to the cash register. The macarons totally caught my eye and I was really tempted to buy one (or more...). 

BLVD Creamery was a nice break indoors away from the heat. I would love to try their other ice cream flavours like tres leches or snickers to name a few. They are open daily from 11:00 AM until 11:00 PM. 

Las Vegas: Gordon Ramsay BurGR

In a previous blog post I mentioned that I would write about some of my Las Vegas and Southern California food adventures, so here is the first one of many!

During my stay in Las Vegas, I was determined to check out celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's restaurant called BurGR. This restaurant features a casual burger concept and is located inside Planet Hollywood Las Vegas (specifically in the casino).

Fire display.

The first thing you might notice before stepping inside the restaurant is this 30 foot long fire display. I loved how the flames energized the room, and it really sets the tone for an exciting visit. 

The interior.

I was expecting a long wait knowing the popularity of this restaurant, but surprisingly my mom and I were seated almost immediately. Our table was positioned towards the outside of the restaurant, so we weren't able to take in the entire space or atmosphere. Nevertheless, I was happy being close to some natural light! 

The menu part 1.
The menu part 2.
The menu part 3!!

Gordon Ramsay BurGR obviously focuses on burgers, but they also offer snacks, salads, fries, "Devil Dawgs", and shakes. I thought most of the menu items were decently priced and this restaurant is definitely one of the not-as-expensive options on The Strip.

Shake #4 (left) and Shake #3 (right).

Shortly after ordering, the first thing we received were our shakes. So quick! I chose Shake #4 ($9) which consists of crème brulee pudding, oreo shake, and an oreo cookie on top. I started by eating just the pudding and it was delicious on its own. I thought it was pretty neat how at first I would only be drinking the oreo shake, but over time the pudding began to meld with the rest of the drink. My shake then became quite thick and perhaps a little too sweet for my liking. However, I did enjoy the experience of trying this despite its hefty cost. My mom picked Shake #3 ($9) which comes with butterscotch pudding, banana shake, and a snickerdoodle cookie. She also enjoyed hers overall but did comment on the level of sweetness in the drink. 

Sweet Potato Fries.

To start off our lunch, we ordered Sweet Potato Fries ($9). The fries are topped with vanilla powdered sugar and served with some honey jalapeño mayo. I love sweet potato fries, and these ones at BurGR were great. The fries were hot and crispy and actually went really well with the subtly sweet powdered sugar. The best part was the dip, which was a mix of sweet and spicy. 

Farm Burger.

I was very excited to try one of Gordon Ramsay's burgers! I wasn't sure which burger to get at first, but when I read that the Farm Burger ($15) came with a fried egg I knew it was the one for me. In my opinion, anything with a fried egg tastes amazing. Additionally, the burger comes with duck breast bacon and English sharp cheddar. So how did it taste? Really, really good! I absolutely loved every bite. The burger patty, which is grilled over apple and alder wood, was juicy, tender, and seasoned well with a nice char. I was happy to see that both the patty and the lightly toasted, pillowy bun weren't so overwhelmingly thick. The fried egg added a pleasant richness, while the cheddar cheese was distinct and creamy. With the addition of the bacon, it made for a very delicious meal. The Farm Burger is definitely one of the best burgers I've eaten. 

Chanterelle Burger.

My mom ordered the Chanterelle Burger ($16) for herself. This burger comes with chanterelle mushrooms, arugula, and figgy-onion jam. My mom was also really impressed with her burger and was all smiles as she ate. She even saved half her burger to give to my dad afterwards (hehe). 

iPad showing the menu.

I had a wonderful experience eating at Gordon Ramsay BurGR. The food I tried was excellent and arrived really fast, the atmosphere was very lively, and most notably, the service was amazing despite the number of people dining in. Our server was also friendly and regularly checked in on us. Another cool thing to note is that the menu items are shown on an iPad with pictures which can really help if you're more of a visual person and decide on what to eat based on pictures. I guess the main downside would be the pricing, such as the shakes which had a pretty steep price tag for what it was. Also, the fact that the burgers didn't already come with a side might be a negative point for some. Overall, I would say that I had a great time at BurGR and so did my mom! I highly recommend checking out BurGR if you're ever craving quality burgers while on The Strip. Who wouldn't want to dine in a celebrity chef's restaurant? 

Like BurGR's Facebook page and follow BurGR (and Gordon Ramsay's other Las Vegas restaurants) on Twitter (@GordonRamsayLV). 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

European Cakes

A summer goal of mine was to visit the farmers' market more often. I'm proud to say that I think I've accomplished that! Out of all the markets I visited, the Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market was the most frequented this summer.

Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market (SWEFM) runs May to October every Wednesday from 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM. It is located in the parking lot across from Terwillegar Recreation Centre and Leger Transit Station. There is a lot of parking space available but the market's location in the heart of the neighbourhood make it easily accessible by walking, bus, or bike. Weekly Fresh Sheets are posted every Tuesday which provide a run down of what's happening at the market including the vendors who will be there, activities going on for kids, and what produce are available and in season.

European Cakes.
Lots of goodies!

A vendor that caught my eye in the July 29, 2015 Fresh Sheet was European Cakes. European Cakes had just started selling their macarons and other baked goods at SWEFM three weeks prior to my visit, so they are fairly new to the market. I knew I needed to give the macarons a try!


European Cakes sells macarons for $2.25 each, a box of 5 for $10, or a box of 10 for $20. I decided to go for a box of 5, with one of each flavour.

A box of macarons for $10.

First impressions: I loved the logo with the damask patterns and the bright pink packaging. Very cute and girly touches. CJ was also quick to note that the macarons didn't look "refined", but let's be real - I would still eat these despite the appearance! Another quality I look for in macarons is that each one should smell like what it's supposed to be (for instance, a strawberry macaron should ideally smell like strawberries). That wasn't the case with these macarons. 

Pink Lemonade.

The first macaron I tried was Pink Lemonade. I thought the vibrant yellow shell with the bubblegum pink filling looked very pretty. Sadly, this was my least favourite flavour out the 5. The pink lemonade flavour just seemed a little artificial and too sweet for my liking. The exterior of the macaron shell was also hard and easily cracked, while the inside was dry and hollow. 

Saskatoon Berry.

I was disappointed that the first macaron I tried wasn't as good as I had hoped, so I'm thankful I tried the Saskatoon Berry flavour next. This one was significantly better! The owner of European Cakes told me that she picked the saskatoon berries herself on a farm near Grand Prairie, and I could really taste the difference when fresh, natural ingredients were used. The macaron shell in this one was perfectly crispy with a moist and chewy interior, as it should be. 


I would say that the Strawberry macaron looked the prettiest, but then again light pink is my favourite colour. This flavour was also delicious - light, subtle, and not too sweet. European Cakes really nailed the berry flavours! 

Salted Caramel.

I'm a lover of Salted Caramel macarons, so I hoped European Cakes' version would taste amazing. However, this one didn't meet my expectations. I wished the buttercream filling had a more prominent salted caramel taste, or that actual caramel were used. Just like the pink lemonade, the macaron shell was also hard and dry.


Last but not least - the Nutella macaron! The nutella flavour in this macaron was not too pronounced but still very enjoyable. I think chocolate-y macarons will always end up tasting delicious. 


Overall, I thought the European Cakes macarons I tried were just good. They didn't particularly "wow" me considering the quality of some of the macaron shells. However, I was really impressed with how awesome the saskatoon berry macaron tasted! I recommend getting the fruity flavours because I found those tasted the best. 

Previously, there wasn't a designated shop/vendor for macarons in southwest Edmonton so European Cakes certainly fills that void in the area. I think European Cakes is a very welcome addition to SWEFM especially for any macaron lovers such as myself. Let's not forget that they sell other baked goods like bread, croissants, and cannolis too! Would I try macarons from European Cakes again? Sure! Just because some of the macarons I tried weren't the best, doesn't mean every other macaron will be like that too. I'm always up for trying new flavours and I know the lady behind this business really goes above and beyond to obtain the highest quality ingredients for her baking. Plus, macarons are so tough to make so I appreciate anyone who makes them! European Cakes is my third macaron adventure posted on my blog, so be sure to read my posts on Milk and Cookies Bakeshop and Contessa French Macarons as well. Follow European Cakes on Instagram (@europeancakes), Twitter (@EuropeanCakes), and like their Facebook page

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Cone

Although cooler weather is now kicking in, summer is still not over! There is still time to enjoy the sunshine, relax, and treat yourself with a classic summer treat: soft serve ice cream. Edmonton's newest ice cream shop offers this crowd favourite, served from a giant ice cream cone complete with a cherry on top. Say hello to The Cone!

The Cone.

The Cone is located in the empty lot north of Wild Earth Bakery, along 99 Street and 90 Avenue. It's definitely not hard to miss! It is owned and operated by the Kleininger sisters, Sheridan and Shelby. Check out this Edmonton Journal article for more info about The Cone.

Picnic tables.

Three picnic tables decorated with glass jars of flowers (I snapped this picture before the flowers were placed) make for a lovely setting if you visit The Cone with family or a group of friends. 

Soft serve ice cream flavours.

So many flavours available - it was hard to choose! We learned that we could mix different flavours together to create our own unique flavour. The ice cream is served in either a cone or cup for $3.50, with stir ins available for an extra 50 cents each.

Our soft serve ice cream in cups.

CJ wanted something fruity and went for the Pina Colada. The pineapple and coconut reminded him of hot summer days which was much needed since it suddenly started raining when we visited! I decided to mix cheesecake and butter pecan together and the combination was delicious and not too sweet. I would say that the flavours I tried were more subtle (flavours weren't too pronounced) but it was still delightful.

Taking a pic of our ice cream while taking shelter from the rain!

I would love to visit The Cone again to try more ice cream flavours! The Cone is open Tuesday-Sunday from 1:00 PM to 9:30 PM unless it is raining. I think it is the perfect place to check out on a warm summer day. Follow The Cone on Instagram (@thecone_yeg), Twitter (@TheCone_yeg), and like their Facebook page

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Island Cafe & Bistro

After returning from my vacation, I spent most of my time attending food festivals or going to the farmers' market for new food finds. Then I started thinking, "it's been awhile since I've actually sat down at a local restaurant". Where could I go for lunch that is a local business and isn't too far to get to?

A photo posted by 🔹#YEGLocal🔹 (@yeglocal) on

I soon learned about an eatery I had never heard of before, named Island Cafe & Bistro. Thanks to YEGLocal for sharing this on Instagram! I think YEGLocal is a good Instagram profile to check out if you want to discover new Edmonton-based businesses. 

Island Cafe & Bistro.

I wasted no time checking out this fairly new eatery! Island Cafe & Bistro (9923 170 Street) quietly opened in mid-July in west Edmonton. There is plenty of parking space available too. 

The interior - lots of seating.
The interior.

The interior of Island Cafe & Bistro is quite spacious with lots of seating. The yellow walls with wood panels and the wood tables and chairs all add on to the "island vibe" of this restaurant.

The menu.
Appetizers | Western Delights | Asian Delights

Island Cafe & Bistro offers a fusion of Malaysian and Western cuisine, although I would say there is more emphasis on their Malaysian/south-east Asian counterpart. It is an eatery where east meets west. 

More menus!
Drinks and Snacks menu.

They also offer some snacks and bubble tea. Island Cafe & Bistro is actually open quite late (until 11:00 PM Sun-Wed and until 2:00 AM on Thurs-Sat) so if you need a late night bubble tea fix consider checking this place out! 

Banana Split Bubble Tea.

Now on to what we ordered! CJ got himself a Banana Split Bubble Tea ($5) which was listed as their Daily Special when we went. This drink is a combination of banana, strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla - pretty much all the components of a classic banana split. Unfortunately, CJ didn't really taste a banana split... when I gave it a sip, I only tasted chocolate and banana.

Avocado Bubble Tea.

The bubble tea drink I chose was Avocado ($5). This drink was made using powder so taste-wise it was just okay. I'm sure it would've been a lot better if the actual avocado fruit was used. I did enjoy how the drink was served in a cute mason jar though. 

Complementary crackers!

We were given these complementary crackers to start off our lunch. These had a satisfying crunch and were great to munch on while we waited for the main meal. 

Thai Style Green Curry.

It's been a long time since I've had Thai green curry. My favourite place for Thai green curry was T.H.I.S. Place cafe but I'm sad to say that they closed back in January (to be honest, I'm still pretty sad that they closed!). I decided to give Island Cafe & Bistro's Thai Style Green Curry ($12) a try and share it with CJ. The spicy green curry comes with chicken and shrimp, lemon grass, lime leaf, potatoes, Malaysian salad, and your choice of either rice noodles, steamed, or coconut rice. We went with steamed rice. The spiciness of this green curry was a lot more mild than what we were expecting, so we wished it was just a little more spicy! However, it's great if you're not really into overly spicy food. I also thought the flavours in the Malaysian salad helped to uplift the otherwise ordinary flavours of the chicken, shrimp, and potatoes. In my opinion, the pineapple was the best part of the salad - juicy, refreshing, and just the right amount of sweetness to contrast the spice. 

CJ and I would normally share T.H.I.S. Place green curry and feel *almost* full but still very satisfied. However, we both felt that Island Cafe & Bistro's green curry didn't leave us feeling satisfied enough splitting it between us two. While we thought the curry from T.H.I.S. Place was excellent for sharing, Island Cafe & Bistro's version is definitely meant for one person (as it should be anyways). 

Display case filled with desserts!

I can't leave without seeing what's available for dessert! Island Cafe & Bistro offers organic desserts made by Cupcakes by Xynn (the daughter of the restaurant owner I believe) who uses raw recipes. I'm not too familiar with raw cuisine, so it was nice to read a note above the dessert display outlining the benefits of eating raw foods. 

Dessert samples.

I was about to ask for a cookies and cream cupcake when we were given a plate of dessert samples! Yay! I'm always up for trying samples. The first one we tried was Nikkea's Living and Organic Chocolate Mousse Cake (pictured on the left). CJ and I both enjoyed the intense, rich chocolate and the nutty crust of the cake. The next sample was a Maple Mille Crepe Cake (pictured on the right). I thought it was really cool to see so many layers of both the crepe and maple custard keeping it in place. 

Raw Recipe Cheesecake.

The last dessert sample we tried was this Raw Recipe Cheesecake. It is made without any cheese or milk but it tasted just like a classic cheesecake! This one was my favourite dessert sample out of the three. Thank you Island Cafe & Bistro for all these delicious samples!

My experience at Island Cafe & Bistro was positive overall. The Thai green curry I tried made for a tasty lunch, especially with the addition of the Malaysian salad. Bubble tea could have been better - it would be nice to see an option of having it made with either powder (set at a lower price) or actual fruit. Service was quick at first, but I wished our server was more prompt and attentive towards the end of our visit. I also thought the pricing of their food items was reasonable, while the portion sizing of the dish we ordered wasn't too big or too small either. 

I think Island Cafe & Bistro is a great place to check out if you ever find yourself in west Edmonton. It's only a short drive north of West Edmonton Mall too. CJ and I visited on a late Friday afternoon, but we were the only customers the entire time. Hopefully they'll start seeing more customers soon though! I would love to give their authentic Malaysian style dishes a try in the future. Don't forget to follow Island Cafe & Bistro on Instagram (@island_cafeandbistro) and like their Facebook page. Also, give Cupcakes by Xynn a follow on Instagram as well (@cuppacakes_xynn).