I know I haven’t written a review on WordPress in a very long time.  I have been enjoying some great food experiences and will have to catch up at some point!

I really don’t enjoy having to write about a negative experience.  I would much rather leave it in the past and move onto something more positive.  Really. On the other hand, I would not want someone to have to experience the same thing if it can be avoided. 

Here is a bit of the back story:

We are a group of friends that started getting together once a week on Tuesdays.  There can be as few as 6 of us, or as many as 20.  We are very laid back.  When we see that the restaurant is busy, we are patient with our server.  I would like to think that we are a pretty fun group to have in your restaurant.  We tip well for good service.  We have been doing this for a little over two years now. 

We are currently looking for our next “Cheers” – It was Social Modern Pub, which is alas, no longer. 

Our friend Paul was the kitchen manager at Social Modern.  We LOVED his food.  It has been a while since SMP closed its doors and we really missed Paul and his cooking.  Paul started working at the Mercer Tavern and asked if we would be interested in stopping by. I made it happen the following Tuesday.

Everyone that knew Paul was excited to try Mercer, because if Paul works there, it has got to be good, right? I had one bad experience there about a month or two after they had opened. The food was bland and the service was extremely slow.  I decided that I would give them another try. 

 We had a group of 17 people.  As the server started to seat us she told us about the beer bucket Tuesday special and informed us that groups of ten or more people are charged an automatic gratuity of 18%.  My guests were instantly not impressed.  We had never been to a pub in our two years of doing this that charged an automatic gratuity.  I can understand in a restaurant – but not in a pub. 

 Looking at the menu and trying to decide what we wanted to drink turned out to be a chore.  The menu had not been updated.  What was listed as being on tap was not what they had. A pint runs you a minimum of $6. Yes that is correct – the draught is expensive.  The bottled beer was also expensive and surprisingly didn’t have a lot of the “local” breweries to choose from. 

 On to the menu…  The time that I had visited previously,  there was some decent selection on the menu.  This time around it was your basic gastro-pub fare with appies, burgers and a small amount of entrees.  Fish and chips $20?  I checked the menu to see if it said “Sawmill”anywhere – nope!

 One of my guests asked if there was a food special and he was told “no”.  There was a steak sandwich special listed on the board coming into the tavern as well as on the chalkboard specials overhead. Disappointing.

 I had ordered the Reuben with fries.  It was nothing spectacular, but at least my choice was edible.  Not so much for my other guests.  The one guest that did order the steak sandwich – it was cold when it finally came out.  The burgers were charred.  The chicken burgers were also charred so badly that one of my guests only took a couple of bites of her burger and couldn’t eat any more. 

 There was nothing at all spectacular about the food.  The one positive thing I can say is that the presentation of the one steak sandwich at our table was beautiful. 

 Now the service… I have worked as a server in a high end steakhouse once-upon-a-time.  I know how it feels to deal with difficult and demanding clientele.  I always tried to smile and go the extra mile for the folks that I was serving.  I wanted a great tip and I wanted for them to come back and ask to be seated in my section! 

 Our server was awful. The drinks were so slow that you had to order the next one while she was dropping off your current one.  One of my guests went to the washroom to refill her water after she had already requested a refill twice.  The couple of guests that arrived a little bit later than the rest were watching what was going on and decided not to order food at all.

 The one pickier guest decided he would test the bar and order a Manhattan.  Although he said it tasted good, it was served in a rocks glass with ice! 

 I am sure near the end of our stay the server could hear at least someone complaining about the experience. Did she ask any of us if there was anything she could do – nope! 

 We were done and out of there by about 8:15.  This never happens with our group.  We like to keep the beer flowing until at least 9 with the stragglers staying until around 10.  Unusual for this bunch. 

 When Paul came out to say hello, I gave him a big hug and told him “I love you – we are never coming back!”.  The look of horror on his face said it all.  We asked him about the food special and he told us “steak sandwich”. I told him what had happened and he was angry he went to back of house to speak with someone but again – no management came out to speak with us and no one (besides Paul) apologized for the bad experience.

 Now here is the kicker; at about 10 pm I get a text message from one of my friends that reads that her roomie has her head in the toilet and can’t stop vomiting.  My heart sank.  I asked what she ate and kept it in mind just in case someone else ended up getting sick as well.  Thankfully that did not happen. 

 So the next morning I did my homework on Urban Spoon and Yelp, reading most of the reviews that had been posted and started to see a theme.  The service and the price points seem to be the biggest complaints. Everyone loves the building – it is stunning! 

 So my suggestions; if you want to charge that much for your food and beverages the service has to be of the highest standard.  If you wish to enforce an automatic gratuity,please make sure that your servers aren’t “coasting” like ours was.  I can see 10% or 15% but 18%… really??  

 Please ensure that you have a cocktail recipe book under the bar to make sure that you have it right when you have newer staff behind the bar. 

 Please make sure your grill cook has taken the food safety course.  Internal food temperatures are important so that your patrons don’t get food poisoning from eating something that is charred on the outside and raw in the middle. 

Coffee and Bacon FTW!

Posted: August 28, 2012 in Bacon, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

The Mercer Warehouse downtown and I have had a love affair that has been going on for years.  From the art installments, to the Halloween Parties and Ghost Tours to the building being empty for years.  When I was at the City Market downtown one weekend, I saw that they were restoring the building and it looked like maybe some new tenants.  I hoped that they were businesses and that they were not turning it into condos.

My prayers were answered and Roast Coffeehouse and Mercer Tavern were soon to be opened.

You would think that with my food obsession I would be one of the first people in on opening day…  Due to the busy summer I did not get to visit Roast until almost the end of August.  I had saw a tweet about a Maple Bacon Latte and knew I would have to drop in to see what they were all about.

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This is a Maple Latte – it is garnished with whipped cream and then a couple of pieces of caramelized Bacon.

The Bacon is fantastic! Crispy and gooey at the same time – it stuck to my teeth. Bacon lovers would love this taste experience.

If you want the latte to have any Bacon flavour in it you need to dunk one of your pieces of Bacon into the latte and let it float – that is, if you can resist eating it!

The Baristas at Roast took a while to get the latte out but it looked like they were having problems with one of the spouts on the espresso machine pulling shots. It was worth the wait – the shots were perfect.

The atmosphere and decor in Roast make for a very comfortable experience. The hardwood floors and open beamed ceiling are the originals from the warehouse. It has a rustic feel while the fireplaces give the atmosphere warmth and the stainless steel bar type chairs give it a touch of modern class. There are overstuffed leather chairs by the fireplaces so there are “homey” feels to certain areas as well. Sure to please many different types of customer.

Currently Roast’s kitchen is not open, but the Barista assured me that it would be soon.

If you like to avoid the hustle and bustle that the “Green Giant” offers – then you should give Roast a try. I can see myself curling up in front of a fireplace with a good book and a great cup of coffee for an hour or two.

Kudos Roast!

Part of the reason that I love Social Modern Pub so much is that the Kitchen Manager, Paul Hoshowski, likes to try his menu items with actual customers before they end up on the menu.  He likes to get honest feedback on his items and is constantly striving to improve the experience.

Our Tuesday Shenanigans group adores Bacon.  It’s all about the Bacon…  Rumour has it that this lovely appetizer is going to end up on the next menu:

Bacon Wrapped Bacon

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On a bamboo skewer you have six pieces of Canadian Back Bacon drizzled in maple syrup and then rolled in brown sugar.  This is then wrapped with Bacon strips and drizzled in some more maple syrup.  The skewer is then put under the broiler until the bacon is nice and crispy.

Bacon lovers rejoice!  The angelic choir sings as you bite into this succulent creation!

Seriously though – for fellow Bacon lovers biting into one of these is a marriage of flavours that are perfect for one another.  Maple and Bacon already pair well together – so adding the back bacon just makes the experience that much better!  The crispy outside makes the Back Bacon inside tender and juicy.  The sweet hint of Maple is not overpowering and would go well with a Voodoo Bacon Maple Ale (which Social Modern does not have on the menu – just sayin’!).

So as soon as the new menu is out – I will be sure to share it with you all.  Until then…  It’s all mine!

I am still trying to formulate some way of keeping track of where the YEG Foodtrucks are on any given day.  I work downtown so am always hoping they will be close enough to my office to be able to sample their wares. I just happened to luck out this week!

The Drift has had to fight with local restaurant owners for their right to park their truck and sell their food.  The food truck trend in Edmonton is a relatively new thing and the City is going to have to provide some solid regulations at some point.

I have learned that Nevin and Kara use “Twitter” to broadcast the information for their whereabouts and their menu.  I happily found out that they would be near my office for most of the week.  I had been very disappointed that the last Jerk Chicken had been sold to the gentleman directly before me at the last “What the Truck” Extravaganza.  I made sure that I got there before the lunch crowd to avoid the lineups.

I (very happily) got my Jerk Chicken.
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On the menu it is described as; “Jerk Chicken on a Ciabatta bun served with grilled pineapple coleslaw”.  Drift gives the sandwiches to you served in a paper bag, as you can see I brought it back to my office and put it on a plate.  I am glad I did!  The juicy pineapple can make for a drippy experience.

The Jerk Chicken was absolutely delicious!  It was a very pleasant afterburn.  The Drift seems to have their own blend when it comes to spicing things up – their fries are spectacular as well.  I think I tasted some cinnamon in the blend – but don’t quote me!

Thanks Nevin and Kara – it was totally worth the wait!

So go out and find @driftfoodtruck on the Twitter and give “The Drift” a taste!

 

We have been searching the city for a gastro-pub that can handle a group of between 15 and 20 people every Tuesday.  We had tried Brewsters, Rosario’s, O2’s and all three had failed to provide the service or the quality that we were looking for.  You would think that a pub would welcome steady income on a weeknight – but alas, no go!

Our regular Tuesday Shenanigans attendee, Michael G.  had posted on his Facebook about a lovely meal he had at a gastro-pub that I hadn’t heard of before.  I did the Google search and found them.  It looked like they might be a good fit for our group – even though they had some pretty bad reviews regarding Wednesday nights.  They had just opened in December of 2011 and seemed to still be getting their bearings.  Mike is a fellow foodie with a palate very close to my own, a fellow lover of bacon – his recommendation alone was good enough for me to at least give them a try.

I made my reservation and the Manager, Ian was nice enough to give me an email back to confirm.  They are located downtown, just behind Grant McEwan campus.  The building was “Campus Grill” in an alternate reality.  There is free parking in the small lot behind the building or on the street after 6pm.  They are open daily at 4pm and generally open until midnight on the weekdays.  They have a daily special that is phenomenal – and I am sure I will be posting as many of them as I can get to!

When I walked in I immediately fell in love with the decor – very minimalist done in black leather and red paint.  They are high-backed bar chairs done in red with some booth-type seats in black.  The place is not huge, and not handicapped accessible.  It is well laid out and comfortable.  There are several large screen televisions that play sporting events and they have satellite music playing that has always been a bit too “poppy” for my tastes.

The wait staff was quick, friendly and efficient.  She told us about the nightly special which was that you buy any alcoholic beverage and you get the “Socialite Burger” with fries at no charge.
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Of course, you have the options for the extras – the burger pictured above has added bacon and an upgrade to yam fries.  The patties are hand made and spiced to perfection.  I couldn’t tell you what is in it besides garlic – but it is damn good!

The Kitchen Manager/Chef is one Paul Hoshowski.  His menu is thoughtful and creative.  If you have someone in your party that is a Celiac or Vegan – he has ingredients in the kitchen where he can whip you up something that will agree with your stomach!  He is kind enough to come out a couple of times a night to make sure that the food is up to standards and to see if there is anything that could have been done better.

The “on tap” selection is small, but the bar selection is pretty decent.  As you can see in the photo above, there is an “Aprikat” from our local “Alley Kat” brewery here in Edmonton.  It pairs rather nicely with the “Socialite” burger.

Paul is wonderful at the desserts as well.  The menu has a couple of choices for dessert but Paul always has some kind of special up his sleeve!
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Creme Brulee – not on the menu – it just happened to be what Paul had for the dessert special of the evening.  It was some of the creamiest custard that I have ever tasted!

Many thanks to Ian, Paul and the wait staff at Social Modern Pub – we <3 all of you and all of us with the Tuesday Night Shenanigans group really appreciate all that you do for us!

And if you are an Edmontonian – you really need to go and give these guys a try!

Wow!  I thought Taste of Edmonton was crowded!

Kudos to all of the Food Trucks that were there and frantically serving the food that they were providing.

Unfortunately I did not get to try as many of the things as I had hoped to due to the very long lineups.  There has got to be a better way to do a little bit of crowd control so that you know where the queue ends?

I had my heart set on the “Jerk Chicken” from Drift – but alas – even though I was there at 6ish (1 hour after start) the gentleman in the lineup before me got the last one!  (Insert sad face here!)  So I settled for my second choice:  Braised Beef Sandwich – whiskey & coffee BBQ sauce, crispy onions & pepperoncini’s

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I should have put something in the photo for size reference – this is one of their mini-sandwiches. It was quite tasty – the pickled jalapenos were not mentioned but were a pleasant surprise.  The hand-cut fries were a nice touch – very yummy.  The meat was tender and flavourful – the sauce was not overwhelming in the least.

My partner in crime decided to wait in the much longer lineup for the Act food truck.  He sampled “The Duke” from the special “What the Truck?!” menu.

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The Duke: beef pattie, smoked cheddar, hickory coffee BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo and pickle.  This was a regular sized burger version.

He states “the burger was good but the wait was really long.”

So the food all in all was a positive experience.  Kudos also goes to the Lingnan for their “Hot and Dry Spicy Chicken” aka “Crack Chicken” which I have been eating for years now – and it always makes me smile to see the expressions on the faces of the newbies that are tasting it for the first time!  I would also like to add that the view on the Victoria Promenade is amazing and a great choice of venue for this event.

The negatives were the long lineups and the mosquitoes.   I am not sure that there is much that could be done about either but to the customer that is trying to experience the flavours, both were very frustrating.

Will I go again – you bet!  I will be prepared to arrive as early as possible and to endure the lines!