Bite-Size Review: 97 Hot Pot

Tim and I were sans kidlets on the weekend so we were able to do spur-of-the-moment things like head to Chinatown for a late dinner on Saturday night. Unfortunately, when we arrived, our favourite spot, Golden Bird, was already closed. Boo!

We decided to head to the first place we saw that was packed. Enter 97 Hot Pot (10602-97 Street).

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The restaurant, which opened before Christmas, was jammed to the rafters with hungry people gorging on hot pot, a big trend these days in Edmonton dining. Both Tim and I were hot pot virgins, but we quickly caught on to this fun dining experience even though the menu boasts more than 100 items, many clearly off the beaten foodie track. The drill: Order unlimited raw noodles, rice, meat, seafood and veggies and start cooking in your soup broth (s) of choice. There is an amazing sauce table at the back of the restaurant that has just about everything you’ll need to dress up your dishes, including fresh ginger, sesame sauce and soy sauce.

If problems arise or you need more food, each table is outfitted with a cool little box that you can use to ring for service. Smart!

The all-you-can-eat price per adult is $25.95, kids $12.95. Each soup broth costs $2 (basic chicken broth is free). There is a two-hour limit for all diners.

Bottom line: Yummy comfort food; excellent service; perfect place for a date.

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The “Last” Supper

We didn’t know it then, but May 4, 2013 – our tribute meal to Julia Child – turned out to be a “last supper” of sorts for our gang. A few months later, Sabrina and Aaron moved to Calgary.

This dinner was definitely a night to remember and a great way to end such a fantastic and memorable culinary collaboration. Sabrina, Brendan and I each cooked a course using recipes from Child’s legendary Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1.

The results were spectacular. I still regularly make soubise. This rice and onion dish is a game changer side and interestingly the recipe that ran with the New York Times’ review of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And all of our dishes spoke to the fact that you can rarely go wrong when using this cookbook. Sure, most recipes are time-consuming and difficult but the results are near flawless. Each are the building blocks for a perfect meal with equally perfect wine pairing recommendations thanks to Paul Child’s often overlooked contribution to this cookbook.

EGS will continue but just in a different form. We’ve decided to invite special guest couples to join us. Our next meal is scheduled for May 10 at the Storeys. Almost a year to the day we last met.

Here is our last meal in pictures. As Julia would say: Bon appetit!

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A Night For All ‘Servantless’ Cooks

TimeJulia Child is a culinary legend. How can you not love a woman who said bon mots like this:

-“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”

-“I think every woman should have a blowtorch.”

-“Cooking is one failure after another, and that’s how you finally learn.”

For our next meeting on May 4, we will need to stock up on butter and goose fat, when we pay tribute to Child, an American-born chef who helped bring French cooking to North American kitchens in the 1960s.

All three courses, the appetizer, main and dessert, will be selected from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, an iconic tome published in 1961 that contains hundreds of labour-intensive and often difficult French recipes. But I’m confident we are up to the challenge. Brendan has been assigned the appetizer, I’m cooking the main, and Sabrina’s handling dessert.

I’ve already started combing through the cook book to find that perfect main. The book, which was co-written by Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, is a must-read for anyone serious about cooking. It’s also hilarious in parts, including the advice against buying cheap chickens (she bitterly complains that they taste like teddy bear innards) and a forward that boasts the book is for the “servantless American cook”.

While Mastering the Art of French Cooking’s often cited and highly-praised boeuf bourguignon recipe seems like a natural go-to-recipe, I want to try something a little more off the beaten culinary track. Stay tuned to find out what I picked.

Also, the scoring will be a little different this time around. The food won’t be judged.

Instead, we will turn our attention to the vino being consumed. Each couple has been asked to pair their dish with two bottles of wine. Both have to hail from the same country and grape, and one has to be more expensive than the other. The other couples will then have to guess what they are drinking and which one cost more. The team that gets the most points will win and help boost the running tally we’ve kept since we started meeting.

The Best Of The Best

We’ve eaten a lot of good grub over the years. Last fall, we decided to cook up The Best of the Best, a tribute of sorts to all the top dishes we’ve tucked into since we started meeting. Kate and Brendan hosted our feast.

the group

chefsAnd to make the night extra special, we put away the scorecards and just enjoyed each plate.

We devoured everything from Katherine’s mini macs to Sabrina’s yummy barbequed mussels to Brendan’s Filipino spring rolls. We also tried out a fantastic lime margarita recipe to go with Kat’s pulled pork enchiladas. I personally haven’t tasted one as refreshing as this.

Thanks again to Daylen for joining us. It was a delicious trip down foodie memory lane.

mini mac

spring rolls

mussels

Moveable Feast

Progressive Dinners are essentially travelling pot luck dinners. In the UK, they are called Safari Dinners. On July 28, Tim and I joined three other couples to create one of our own moveable feasts. They are pure genius. Here’s how they work:

1) The first couple hosts everyone at their house and serves the appetizer
2) You then move to the second couple’s house where the main is served.
3) At the last house, belonging to the third couple, everyone devours dessert.

Because our group had four couples, we enjoyed two appetizers. We used bikes and cars to travel between houses. If you are going to do this, it’s best to find friends who live close to one another.

To make sure the menu would gel, we decided to stick with fresh summer ingredient theme. The outcome was delicious!

At Brendan and Kate’s, we enjoyed a spicy crab cake with guacamole and sangria.

Next up, we were served a chilled cucumber soup with prawns at Brea and Carl’s place. They paired it with a fabulous white vino.

Tim and I cooked the main: pulled pork enchiladas with chili verde, sour cream and salsa roja. We paired it with a white wine and peach sangria.

Our sugar fix for the night was served at Jody and Rhett’s. They dished up yummy fried apple enchiladas with tequila whip cream. We ate dessert outside by the fire. The evening was capped off with microbrew Mexican beers and tequila shots.

Thanks to Brea for organizing such a memorable summer night. This is the second time our group has participated in a Progressive Dinner, and it’s definitely becoming a tasty tradition.

Big Bites

For the ninth installment of EGS, we met at Aaron and Sabrina’s shiny, new penthouse overlooking downtown Edmonton. We also had another special guest judge: Daylen. This is the second time we’ve invited a guest to help judge our meal, and it’s quickly turning into a delicious tradition.

Sabrina’s challenge for the first round was to come up with a one-bite appetizer (no frying allowed!). Each bite had to be paired with a vino that cost $20 or less.

Sabrina went first, serving up a seared scallop with an organic pea puree and a touch of ginger soy vinaigrette. To finish it off, each scallop was topped with micro chives and sesame seeds. Aaron paired it with Prosecco, everyone’s favourite faux champagne (I personally like it better than champers).




I made a baked baby potato coin topped with Alberta beef tenderloin, homemade horseradish creme fraiche, dill (thanks for the tip, Paul) and lemon zest. I was pleasantly surprised to find locally grown baby potatoes at the end of winter in Edmonton. Tim paired my bite with a bold $20 Australian shiraz – Angus The Bull.

Brendan and Kate took the Big Bite challenge and added a twist: Big Presentation. Brendan cooked up honey-glazed coconut shrimp with an apricot dip. Each shrimp was attached to a mini clothes line. The idea was adapted from this very cool cook book. Kate paired it wth a New Zealand white (Oyster Bay). The bottle and glasses chilled in a special “ice bucket” that Kate made for the occasion. All those bells and whistles helped push Brendan over the top (not to mention the extra shrimp!).



The main course was a difficult challenge: recreate a dish from a restaurant menu. The catch: the menu was emailed to the chefs two days before our cook-off. Sabrina’s friend Bruce picked the menu, which ended up being four menus from restaurants belonging to Edmonton’s Century Hospitality Group.

I went first, serving up a dish from Hundred Bar & Kitchen: pan seared salmon, green pea risotto, bacon hollandaise and arugula pesto. I used a Rob Feenie green pea risotto recipe, but it didn’t turn out well (too mushy). When in doubt, always use Jamie Oliver’s risotto recipe. I still haven’t found one that tops it. Tim paired it with a refreshing cocktail he invented: mango juice, San Pellegrino and vodka.

Sabrina went next, offering up gourmet baby back ribs with a homemade chipotle BBQ sauce. The sides were mashed potato spring rolls and grilled veggies. Inspired by a recent trip to Hawaii, Aaron made a cocktail called “Into the Blue.” A blend of Blue Curacao, Peach Schnapps, Red Bull and Grey Goose, Tim redubbed it “The Crippler.” It was served in special glasses made from actual Grey Goose bottles.


Brendan finished out the evening with a Cap’n Crunch crusted Ahi Tuna dish served with basil risotto and grilled vegetables. The tuna was also drizzled with a spicy orange sauce made with orange preserves, chili sauce and fresh squeezed OJ. Kate paired it with a crisp white vino from the Alsace region of France.

In the end, Sabrina pulled out the main course win. I’m still thinking about those heavenly mashed potato spring rolls and ribs.

A big thank you to Daylen for helping us decide the winners.

THE SCOREBOARD

Brendan: 7
Katherine: 5
Sabrina: 7

March EGS Meeting

A note from Sabrina…

Good Day Fellow EGS members!

I hope we are all on for this Saturday! 
After a lot of deliberation I have decided to go with the following theme for our upcoming event.

Appetizer: 
It must be a one bite appie and cannot be fried.  Simply put, you can pop it in your mouth and away you go. My idea behind the one bite appie is to keep things a bit healthier this time around so keep it small and delicious.
Spouses: Your drink task is to pick a favorite vino under $20 to pair with the one bite appie.  (Thanks to Kat for this idea)

Main:
I will send out an email on Friday morning with the link to a restaurant website.  Chefs: you must select an entree from the website menu and try to replicate the dish.  If possible, let’s try to select something different and advise each other by noon Friday on what we are making.  To be fair, I am not going to be a part of the restaurant selection.  My good pal Bruce will be selecting it and I will find out when I send the email to you. I also recognize that we may not be able to access all of the ingredients in the menu so substitutions will be allowed on the basis that you could not locate the initial ingredient.  We will be judged on the taste, plating and similarity to the description provided.
Spouses: Pair which ever bevie you best see fit!  And remember…no helping in the kitchen 😉