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Tea: Kusmi Violette

Kusmi tea

Kusmi tea

One of the teas I picked up at the Banff Tea Company ages ago was the Kusmi brand Violette tea.  I had heard and seen a bit of Kusmi tea, but didn’t know much about it until reading a bit about it in the shop.  You might remember I tried some of the Kusmi Almond Green tea last May as well.

Kusmi teas were first established in 1867 in St. Petersburg, and in 1917 the company moved to Paris where it continues using “high-quality teas with natural essences to create subtle aromas and flavours“.  Teas come from India, China, and Ceylon, while the essences come from around the world.

The little mints – I’ll get them next time!

I had seen some violet candies in the candy store only a little while earlier, (but not picked them up, as I was only getting things for someone else.. and no sweets for myself) and so the chance to try violet tea was too enticing to pick up (even if the cost was quite dear! eep!) According to the Kusmi website (the Canadian site is all in French, so I am referring you to the English USA site instead) the tea is from Chinese black tea leaves and violet petals.

Scent

Dry, the tea is distinctly a black tea, with a light floral violet scent.  It doesn’t look particularly pretty – though the tin itself is especially pretty!  Although the Banff Tea Co. website doesn’t list the Violette in-stock, they did have a few tins, though only the large size – they did have some smaller tins of different flavours and variety packs of smaller tins, so it’s worth calling ahead and seeing what they might have in stock before making the trip.  I’m sure I’ve seen the tins on the shelves of other specialty tea/coffee shops as well, so you can likely find it locally as well… (though next time you’re in Banff, you know where to go!)

The scent while steeping is similar to any other black tea, with a slight floral scent – though the violet isn’t especially distinct

Taste

Kusmi violet tea (kind of boring to look at...)

Kusmi violet tea (kind of boring to look at…)

Once I’d steeped up the tea, the flavour isn’t too different from the dry or steeping scent. It’s a black tea (which easily becomes oversteeped and bitter I’m afraid – it’s a very delicate black tea, beware!) with a very, very subtle floral flavour. I’d suggest that the taste is slightly more ‘violet’ than the steeping scent, but in a ‘blind taste test’, my companion could pick out that I was serving her a floral tea, but couldn’t distinguish the specific violet flavour.

Overall impression

The Kusmi Violette tea is overall ‘ok’ – it’s a nice enough tea, but I really would like a little stronger or more dominant violet flavour.  On the Tea Review Blog, Elllyn reviews this tea as well, and gives it an overall very positive review.  My Secret Home blog has a long background on the Kusmi company if you’re curious.  Additionally on Steepster there are a few 50/50 reviews of this tea.  Better still, there are four other violet teas listed – giving me hope that if I keep my eyes open, I might find other violet teas out there!

If you happen to know of any really nice violet teas (preferably locally acquired, rather than ordered!) please let me know in the comments below!

 
 

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Return of Calgary’s Food Trucks: Family Fry Guy

Traditional poutine from the Family Fry Guy

Traditional poutine from the Family Fry Guy

Now that the calendar tells us it’s spring (if only the weather would cooperate too) it looks like Calgary’s Food Trucks are back!

They were gone for winter near where I work (near Mount Royal University in Calgary’s SouthWest) but on Monday, March 24th I saw the first (of many, I’m sure!) tweets announcing the return of Food Trucks. They visit the campus, and in the past one truck has visited per day, around the lunchtime to add variety to the lunchtime offerings at MRU (and area) now that the university’s main cafeteria has closed.

On Monday I had the chance to check out the first truck, one I hadn’t tried out before – the Family Fry Guy.

Their main menu is… well of course based on French Fries! English Pub style French Fries to be specific, and then they get fancy with either chili-cheese toppings, or cheese and gravy for a poutine option.

Since I didn’t know what the portion sizes would be like (half-way through my meal I was full…) I ordered a regular poutine ($7.25 according to their website, though the prices at the van seemed to be different than the web prices) with traditional (squeeky) Quebec cheese curds, along with a pulled pork on a bun ($5.00 on their website). They also offer ‘melty’ cheese for the poutine, Polish sausage, hot dogs, and roast beef on a bun.

Traditional poutine from the Family Fry Guy

Traditional poutine from the Family Fry Guy

The English pub-style fries seemed a bit wrong for poutine, and although they were nice and thick-cut (skins on) they couldn’t really support the weight of the gravy and cheese. It seems to be a pretty common problem with poutine around here -maybe I’m just expecting too much.  The container was quite substantial… I ended up not being able to eat all of my fries. Thankfully though, the fries didn’t seem pre-seasoned, which is good… I’ve had poutine in Calgary that was WAY too salty because I’m sure the cook used pre-salted fries… and then poured salty gravy on top!

Pulled pork on a bun from the Family Fry Guy

Pulled pork on a bun from the Family Fry Guy

The pulled pork on a bun… well… it didn’t look like much. Just some shredded meat and a hefty squirt of sauce on a hot dog bun. They really should have considered upgrading the bun to something a bit more substantial – just like the fries, the bun couldn’t really support the slippery topping.  (Plus it looked pretty… boring.)  The taste was good though, with nice tender pork and well-seasoned sauce that wasn’t too spicy for me.

Pulled pork on a bun from the Family Fry Guy

Pulled pork on a bun from the Family Fry Guy

Both dishes were super messy though – I always think of food trucks as being street food, festival food, carnival food – not food that you’ll pack up and bring back to your kitchen to eat.  Grab lots of extra napkins for these dishes, and find a place to eat before noshing.  (Or risk hands covered in gravy…) With the portion sizes (and my tendency to get tired of the same flavour after a while) I’d recommend getting a sandwhich, and then sharing the poutine or fries. I don’t even know who could finish one of the large poutines!  If you want onions, bacon bits, or other toppings for your poutine (or sandwhich) they’re on the side… but full hands don’t make for good topping-adding. If you want pulled pork or roast beef for your poutine, it’s available too for an extra $2.00 (according to the website).

With the return of Food Trucks to Calgary’s ‘spring’ – will you be keeping an eye out for the Family Fry Guy – or is there another Food Truck you’re keen on checking out this spring? Let us know in the comments below!
Family Fry Guy on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Downtown Calgary, South-West Calgary

 

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Big Catch sushi in Kingsland Market

Roll from Big Catch Sushi in Kingsland Market

Meteor Rain Roll  in the foreground with the God of Wind roll in the background from Big Catch Sushi in Kingsland Market

 

I visited Big Catch a while ago, but then over and over again I kept seeing posts, tweets, and reviews raving about the kiosk in the Kingsland Farmer’s Market (just off MacLeod Trail).  I had to go back last Friday – and this time Connie came with me!

It took me a while to get back to Big Catch because of their hours. Since they’re in the market, they’re tied to the hours of the market – Thursday – Sunday only.  On the Friday when we went, the market closed at 5:00 p.m., but Big Catch is open 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Thank goodness, because we only just made it in time for 5:00 p.m. after work!

While we were both tempted by the sashimi (they offer 5 pieces of sashimi for $7.50 in either salmon, tuna, toro – fatty tuna, and wild salmon) we decided to go for the rolls that they’re really are known for.

Rolls from Big Catch Sushi in Kingsland Market - Such a pretty plate showing off the Meteor Rain and God of Wind Rolls

Rolls from Big Catch Sushi in Kingsland Market – Such a pretty plate showing off the Meteor Rain and God of Wind Rolls

I picked out the Mount Alaska roll that I’ve had before (skipping the onions this time) and the Zesty Avalanche roll, while Connie went for the God of Wind roll and the Meteor Rain.

Mount Alaska Roll from Big Catch Sushi in Kingsland Market

Mount Alaska Roll from Big Catch Sushi in Kingsland Market

The Mount Alaska roll is a cucumber and tuna roll topped with smoked salmon, avocado, volcano sauce and black pepper.  The roll usually comes topped with onions too, though I skipped that.  I found that the topping was less black pepper and more sort of a seasoning sprinkle thing.  The smoked salmon was delicious, and there was only a touch of sauce, which is good – but the seasoning on top was too big (it needed to be ground down more fine) which made it annoying to eat.

The Zesty Avalanche is listed as a “spicy miso infused salmon and daikon topped with prawn and avocado served with Japanese mayo”.  I was really excited about the miso-infused salmon – but I really couldn’t taste any special flavour to the salmon itself.  The roll also had the same chunky spice blend sprinkled on top which I didn’t really care for, and I found the daikon a bit too sharp with the much more delicate flavours.

The God of Wind roll is a prawn tempura roll with masago and cucumber. it’s topped with avocado, unagi (eel) and wine wasabi sauce. Hopefully Connie will chime in and let us know how it was!

Likewise, hopefully Connie will share her impressions of the Meteor Rain roll,which is a crab and wild salmon roll topped with torch seared salmon, thinly sliced onion, Japanese mayo, and mixed spices.

Service & Atmosphere

The atmosphere at Big Catch is… farmer’s market food court. Our entertainment during our meal was a little girl (about 4 years old I’m guessing?) running up to use over and over…and over and over showing us her orange slices, an infant behind us slamming his plastic bottle against the table, and a regular stream of customers coming in for take-out.  (They really seem to have the take-out sushi down pat -so if you’re not in the mood for the farmer’s market food court atmosphere and more in the mood for your own dining room, consider take out instead!)

The service on the other hand – is the total opposite.  Our cashier was outgoing, friendly, and eagerly helpful.  He offered to help us choose which rolls we wanted while we were looking through the menu, took our orders quickly, delivered our sushi to our table while we sat, and came by several times to check that everything was good with our sushi. Excellent service for sure! As things were winding down, the chefs in their tiny ‘kitchen’ were also helpful when Connie’s eyes were bigger than her stomach and she needed to pack up her leftovers for a late-night sushi snack.

Overall impression

My impressions for my second visit are much like the first – Big Catch is getting a lot of great press on social media and through review sites, and the sushi is good – especially good if you consider it fast-food sushi – but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all for sushi in Calgary. The quality of food is great, but the location and hours make it challenging.  It is well worth a stop by though – if you can get there during the open hours….

Big Catch Sushi
http://bigcatchcalgary.com/
7711 Macleod Trail SE (Kingsland Farmers’ Market)
Calgary, AB T2H 0M1
403.708.5555
bigcatch.calgary@gmail.com

Big Catch Sushi on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2014 in South-East Calgary, Sushi

 

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Ranked #38

Avocado salad from Blue Circle Sushi (Seattle)

Avocado salad from Blue Circle Sushi (Seattle)

As most of our Happy Sushi Belly readers know, one of the first websites we linked to was UrbanSpoon. I used UrbanSpoon ALL THE TIME when looking for someplace new to eat, or even when just trying to figure out if the place I was thinking of has the menu/hours/etc I want.

With that in mind, we’re currently ranked #38 on UrbanSpoon, and here’s my little push to ask you to help us increase that number to get even more exposure for Happy Sushi Belly.

Happy Sushi Belly Calgary restaurants

If, like me, you love UrbanSpoon, and have a profile there, consider visiting our profile on there, and clicking “Follow“. Then, when you see we’ve posted something new on UrbanSpoon (if you see it there first!) follow the link on UrbanSpoon to read more! The more traffic we see from UrbanSpoon, the higher our ranking will go! (And subsequently, the more people that will see our posts!)

Of course, you can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus too!

Of course, to stay in touch you can also follow us on Twitter, or join our Facebook page!

Screenshot from day one!

Screenshot from day one!

Want a little more light reading? There’s an interesting (and kind of confusing to me at least) blog post about the “hotness factor” of blog posts and UrbanSpoon rankings from 2009 on Food near Snellville.

On the other hand “Your Resturaunt Sucks” really could care less about UrbanSpoon rankings.  (And a much more light-hearted post for sure!)

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Sal’s Flatbread

Gyro from Sal's

Gyro from Sal’s

Sal’s Flatbread was previously known as Byblos Mediterranean, and I’m pretty sure that it’s still owned by the same company – the company you’ll probably know for their mass-available Baklava, Byblos Bakery.

Open for lunch and dinner 6 days a week inside Mount Royal University, Sal’s is a decent place to grab a quick lunch. I’ve also seen them previewing what I guess is a breakfast flatbread, so their menu might be expanding soon to serve the students at MRU. They offer a variety of calzones and flatbreads, plus hummus, pita, salad and a few other small items (including those Baklava treats…)

I always go for the gyro flatbread though (hold the onions) which is delicious! They bake the bread right on site as you order it, and it always tastes fresh…

A while back I took a photo while I was having some lunch (just ignore the tray liner which I blurred for privacy) which included a Matcha smoothie from Booster Juice (also in the same food court) and the gyro from Sal’s.

If you’ve checked out Sal’s – what do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Sal’s Flatbread
4824 Mount Royal Gate SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 880-3066
Sal's Flatbread on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in South-West Calgary

 

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Towa sushi in Mission

Enormous rolls from Tawa sushi

Enormous rolls from Towa sushi

I’ve used Towa sushi (occasionally mis-calling it Tawa) as an example a few times before in Happy Sushi Belly, but I have yet to actually review it here in the blog. I use it often as an example of annoyingly huge rolls. You know the ones… they look so amazing, but then when you go to eat them… you either have to take them apart (which in my opinion kind of defeats the point of blending all of those flavours together) or make a huge mess trying to bite into them.

However, Towa offers the kind of roll that one of my friends really likes, (pictured above) which doesn’t include any raw fish or nori (seaweed). That meant that on a recent get-together, we headed to Towa!

While one friend placed an order of the huge roll above and an order of tempura, our other friend went for tempura as well, and a plate including an assortment of sushi below. Both of them have read Happy Sushi Belly, so were nice enough to indulge me as I took a few photos…

Instead of those huge rolls, I stuck with a plate of sashimi. This is the Deluxe Sashimi Assortment, for $26.  The menu only says that it is an ‘assortment’ of the ‘chef’s choice’ and not how many pieces or what you can expect, but it was a pretty nice assortment of expected fish. I normally would also order an Ikura, but I don’t like the way they prepare it at Towa.


What are your thoughts on those huge rolls like they serve at Towa? Let us know in the comments below!

Towa Sushi
2116 4 St SW,
Calgary, AB T2S 1W7
(403) 245-8585
Towa Sushi on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2014 in South-West Calgary, Sushi

 

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Sushi: Kyoto in Edmonton

Sashimi plate from Kyoto Sushi in Edmonton

Sashimi plate from Kyoto Sushi in Edmonton

I was up in Edmonton not too long ago for a concert (Tyr, Death Angel, and Children of Bodom) and while I was there I of course had to go for sushi!

I stopped in at Sushi Kyoto, in the Argyll Plaza area. The restaurant was slow, though it was about 5:00 p.m. when I was there, only one other diner (one of the members from one of the bands!) was there while I was there and a couple came in as I was leaving. The restaurant is simple but clean and tidy, but I found that the menu wasn’t very diverse. One potential problem that the other diner had (and if I’d been looking for rolls, I might have as well) was that the rolls were listed by name, but didn’t include ingredients. While a California Roll might be the same all over, local favourites are sometimes regional creations. Since it appeared as though the only staff person working up front was both a chef, server, host, and cashier, this meant that it took some time to have his questions answered about what was included in each roll.

This same low service (which is understandable considering how few diners were eating in Kyoto) also meant that when I needed more water, wanted to place an order, or wanted the bill, it took a long time to get the attention of the staff member.

Chopped scallop roll from Kyoto Sushi in Edmonton

Chopped scallop roll from Kyoto Sushi in Edmonton

The sashimi plate was ok, it included four different kinds of fish; salmon, tuna, yellowtail and prawn. I also ordered the “chop chop” – the Edmonton name for what we call here the Special Scallop (chopped scallop, tobiko and Japanese mayonnaise). It was… forgettable.

I’d return to Kyoto if I were in the area… but if not, I wouldn’t make a trip there.

More photos

Want to see photos of the concert? Check out my Flickr set of the Tyr / Death Angel / Children of Bodom show in Edmonton!

Sushi Kyoto
9852 63 Ave NW,
Edmonton, AB T6E 0G6
(780) 413-6363
Kyoto Sushi Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Out of town - Alberta

 

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