Thursday, May 4, 2006

Eating in, eating out

We've been going out for dinner on Friday nights for most of the time we've lived here in Halifax, but in recent months, I've tried to make the extra effort to pick a nice restaurant for a more romantic start to the weekend. Something more fine-dining than Swiss Chalet, but not Da Maurizio every week. We've tried a few great restaurants in town:

  • Il Mercato on Spring Garden Road. A busy Italian restaurant with a nice atmosphere and decor. We've tried the pork tenderloin, the steak, the lamb, and a delicious bruschetta.
  • Jane's On The Common is a small place with a window on Halifax Common, a big greenspace in the centre of the city. Small and cozy. The food was artfully presented and full of flavour.
  • Vivo Bistro on Windsor Street was recommended by a coworker. It's on the main floor of a big old house. The food was pretty good -- I had a chicken curry -- but the room was rather loud.
Restaurants on the local to-do list include Sweet Basil, Duffy's, and a fine-looking French place in the historic pedestrian mall around the corner... name slips my mind right now.
We went out for some great meals in Calgary, too:
  • Hy's Steakhouse has been around since 1956. It's a classy, pricy joint. Makes The Keg look like Swiss Chalet, but honestly, I've enjoyed my Keg steaks more. Not that the Hy's beef wasn't good, but I shouldn't have ordered one with the trademark BBQ sauce. I'm not a sauce connoisseur, and would've been better off with a naked steak. Amanda's peppercorn steak tasted great, but was apparently very peppery.
  • Bow River Barley Mill in Eau Claire Market highlighted a visit downtown. Eating on the patio on a cool day under propane heaters, I devoured a steak sandwich with a side of tortellini soup.
  • Denny's next to the hotel. Generally good food. A visit to Denny's will tell you why so many Americans are fat. Generous portions of delicious but not particularly healthy food at decent prices. At least here -- the Denny's we visited in Niagara Falls had the prices jacked up.
  • Earls (not Earl's or Earls'). I don't know how many Earls run the place. Punctuation aside, great eating. I ordered the Jerk Chicken Breast but ended up eating the Curry Chicken. I didn't know I got the wrong thing until we reexamined the menu to look for dessert. No matter -- the curry was damn good. The dessert we'd been coveting, however, was not available.
  • Chili's. Another American chain. Nothing exception, but nothing to complain about. I think I had another steak.
  • Botanica, the restaurant in the hotel, served up good food. Hotel restaurants -- boring, right? Sure, I guess. But the ingredients were fresh and flavourful and the prices reasonable. The stir-fry was crispy and bright. The steak was among the best I had on the trip. Amanda says her Monte Cristo sandwich was enlightening, and an omelette drew praise.
  • I ventured over to "My Donair" behind the hotel, drawn by its nearness, my cultivated fondness for donairs, and its claim to serve the "best in the west" ... well, the west is missing out. Dry, bland, nothing to recommend these donairs. And I just noticed that two of the chain's outlets were cited as part of an e. coli outbreak a while back.
Our trip to Banff was brief, so we had to choose our eating carefully:
  • Melissa's beckoned as our first stop in search of brunch. It boasts all-day breakfast and light lunches, which sounded just right. I enjoyed a little tiny steak; Amanda had a perfect soup.
  • We chose the Maple Leaf Grill for our big fancy dinner. I selected a steak with herbed mash and the biggest honkin' onion ring ever -- just perfect. Amanda's Brome Lake Duck with vanilla bean risotto, bok choy and ginger rhubarb sauce was a huge hit. (Photo) The bruschetta was tricky to eat, but oh so tasty. The oil-and-balsamic mix was the best yet.
  • Our way-outta-town meal was suggested by the staff at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge. Craig's Way Station was a packed diner with all-day breakfast. Nothing fancy, nothing special, and the service was downright slow. But the food was decent. Diner food that hit the spot.
After all that, we've decided to get on the healthy eating bandwagon. Cracked open the heart-and-gut-healthy cookbooks and picked some good starters. Amanda's been cooking up some great stuff. We're getting adventurous and lovin' it. Plus, with a new barbeque and patio set on the balcony, the options have opened up significantly. Fired the thing up last night -- what a joy.

1 comment:

  1. good! Good for you two, pullin' out cookbooks and creating your own meals! I am overwhelmed with BBQ-envy. everything's good on a BBQ.
    I foresee this all coming together: fresh ingrediments from your patio garden, fresh food, a comfy outdoor dining table with a great view, and some contented full tummies! Enjoy!