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Monthly Archives: May 2017

Are you a ‘reader’?

mushroom salad from Cibo

mushroom salad from Cibo

With Google Reader shutting down, a lot of people were left wondering how to keep following the blogs they loved.  While WordPress offers their own Reader (you can follow WordPress blogs as well as non-WordPress blogs), there are a few other options out there.

If all of that seems like too much effort, we’ve got an alternate solution if you are on Facebook

Consider “liking” Happy Sushi Belly on Facebook and add our page to your interests list.  You’ll get an update when we make new blog posts, along with an occasional related video, link, or cool thing happening in our local area right on your Facebook wall. You can also scroll through some of the previous posts in a quick way, versus when you want to linger and browse each entry.

Read more about the WordPress Reader here: http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/wordpress-reader/

Or follow Happy Sushi Belly on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HappySushiBelly 

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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Do blog posts & review ratings make a difference?

Super yummy salad made with dressing from Eau Claire market Oil & Vinegar bar

Super yummy salad made with dressing from Eau Claire market Oil & Vinegar bar

I write for Happy Sushi Belly for a few reasons, 1) I write for a living and constantly writing keeps things flowing when I just have to pound out that 45 page proposal in 2 days (true story) 2) I love to share my experiences with others who have similar interests, 3)It’s good experience with my camera – when I can remember to bring it! and 4) It’s a good way to remember what I liked and didn’t like… for when I go back and am sitting down wondering “did I like the gyoza here?”

As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer to keep my reviews pretty positive, though sometimes that’s hard and I have to give a bad review.  (I’m looking at you, Schanks).  I know that reading good or bad reviews makes a difference if I choose to visit a place or not (and sometimes I wish I had read the reviews first after finishing a meal..) but what is the difference to restaurants, cafes, and other places that get reviewed?

Do good reviews guarantee a good meal?

There’s an article in the Ottawa Citizen by Peter Hum about ‘the numbers game’ on review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and other review sites. The author concedes that sometimes a place with a bad review actually gives him a good experience, and vice-versa, sometimes a well-reviewed place is lackluster in person. Changes in suppliers and staff could make a big difference in this, not to mention the personal bias of the reviewer.  (After all, no place that gives me onions is going to get a glowing review, no matter how good the food might be otherwise!)

But a lot of positive numbers do have at least one effect…

Tray of goodies at the Butchart's Afternoon Tea

Tray of goodies at the Butchart’s Afternoon Tea

However a high number of positive reviews does have one obvious effect – it moves your business up to the top of the list on those reviewing sites.  For instance, on a review site Fine dining list, the following restaurants are at the top of the list:

  1. Bolero Fire Grill
  2. NOtaBLE
  3. Gaucho Brazilian
  4. Vero Bistro Moderne
  5. Japanese Village

Does this mean that Japanese Village is far better than the little strip mall Japanese place close to home where you’ve been going for years? Nope, but it does mean that if I hop onto a review site and am just looking for a place to eat fast, and don’t want to do a lot of searching, Japanese Village is more likely to get my business than your around-the-corner favourite.

Peter goes on to illustrate a restaurateur who really did want to get the ‘numbers’ for one of his restaurants up – looking to increase the rating from 62% to 75% as his goal. His plan to ask for up-votes from his friends backfired, as a particular review site saw a huge rush in traffic to vote for his restaurant as potential spam.  Instead of his percentage of positive “thumbs up” going up… it actually went down.

Do a lot of positive reviews get ‘butts in the seats’?

Watermelon, feta & mint salad at the Argyle Attic in Victoria, BC

Watermelon, feta & mint salad at the Argyle Attic in Victoria, BC

Social media & search engines has made it easy for people to find out what other people think – just type something into a search bar or post a question on Twitter and you’ll have loads of responses.  We’re also more likely to believe the review of someone we know than someone we don’t, and more likely to believe the review of someone we don’t know than the marketing of the business owner.  In his article “Boost your Yelp Rating… and your sales with these six steps” Arment Dietrich quotes a Harvard Business School study that concluded that one full star books on Yelp can increase sales by 5-9%.  That’s a lot more sushi.. or tea.. or hamburgers..

How can restaurants get good reviews?

While it’s true that people are possibly more likely to tell their friends “oh, don’t go there.. they’re terrible!” than to log into a review site to put their name behind their opinion, but there are a few tips that can get restaurant owners & managers on the right foot to getting ‘that extra 5-9%’.

1) Serve good food, at a good price, and do it well.

It might seem pretty obvious, but if your staff are lackluster, your dishes are spotty, your food is overpriced, and the menu is boring… you’re not going to get rave reviews.  Consumers have a whole wealth of options to choose from, and at the end of the day they WANT to be glad they picked your establishment.

2) Live up to your promises

If you say that you have the ‘best ribs in Calgary’ – is that true? Do you regularly check out the competition to evaluate your price, quality, speed, service, cleanliness and all of those other factors to ensure that you really are the best? If your menu has photos, does the plate on the table really resemble the photograph? Don’t expect positive reviews after the bill has been presented if what they bought is nothing like what you promised they would get.

3) Monitor your reviews

An assortment of strange things to eat in Lake Mývatn

An assortment of strange things to eat in Lake Mývatn

Monitoring your reviews is an amazing way of seeing if you’re living up to your promise. For example; Are bloggers taking photos of your food? How much does it look like your menu photos? Sign up for the different review sites (more about that below) and sign up for a Google Alert to get the news from news sites, bloggers, and more.  Follow your own hashtag on Twitter, and Instagram and read your comments on your Facebook page. Pay attention to who is leaving you great reviews or posting mouth-watering photos – and reward them! Likewise, if you see that a particular customer had a bad experience – respond and make it better!

4) Own your own review pages or set them up yourself

There’s nothing worse than having a hundred people show up at 10:00 a.m. because they read that your establishment was open for breakfast… when you actually don’t open until 11:00.  If you own your own review page you can update it with hours, maps, address, phone number, along with sync it with your own Twitter feed so that viewers can get an automatic update about your restaurant – without you having to do any additional work.

 

What do you think?

My companion's tuna and  salmon sashimi in the foreground, and our individual pieces in the background  - from Hana Sushi in Calgary's Mission district.

My companion’s tuna and salmon sashimi in the foreground, and our individual pieces in the background – from Hana Sushi in Calgary’s Mission district.

Do you pick a place to eat based on reviews, or are you more likely to dine wherever is closest? What would you recommend places do to improve their reviews? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

 

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Fast food sushi disappointment

Take out sushi from Sushi Ginza at Chinook Centre

Take out sushi from Sushi Ginza at Chinook Centre

I really should know better. Every time I’ve been to Sushi Ginza in Chinook Centre over the past few (years?) I’ve been disappointed. The worst part of it is that the rice is dry, but I also feel like there’s very limited selection.

 

But I don’t learn my lesson apparently – and once again while at the mall to do a little shopping (see my Instagram feed for my shopping scores) I was hungry and popped to the food court for a bite of dinner. The food court was PACKED and I hoped that since it was the busy period, this meant that the food would fresh- no more dry rice. I was wrong. I hate leaving bad reviews, but I really need to remember how disappointing this fast-food sushi is.

Take out sushi from Sushi Ginza at Chinook Centre

Take out sushi from Sushi Ginza at Chinook Centre

You might remember that I’ve also had GOOD experiences with fast food sushi… click the category tag below to get the highs and lows.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2017 in South-West Calgary, Sushi

 

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Kaffi Klassik, Reykjavik

Klassik Crepe from Kaffi Klassik

Klassik Crepe from Kaffi Klassik

Twice I’ve been to Reykjavik, and twice I’ve been to the Kringlan mall – the largest shopping mall in Rekyjavik with over 150 shops and services. Twice too I’ve been to Kaffi Klassik as well – the second time I made a point of going again to get one of their crepes for my lunch, remembering how interesting and tasty it is!

Kaffi Klassik menu

Kaffi Klassik menu

English-speaking visitors don’t have to worry too much about the tongue-twisting Icelandic language, although they are very proud of their language and it’s displayed prominently, (and they have many laws in place to protect it), pretty much everywhere is also comfortable communicating efficiently in English. The menus are in both English and Icelandic – which is good.. because while some of the Icelandic words “feel” familiar… there are some which aren’t Iceland-ified loan-words, and they’re completely foreign!

Kaffi Klassik menu close-up

Kaffi Klassik menu close-up

There are a few interesting diversions though… like “paprika” doesn’t mean the spice the way you’d anticipate – it means bell pepper apparently… (This was also similar in Finnish…) I got the Klassik Crepe with ham, rice, leek, bell pepper, cheese and mustard sauce the first time I visited (and the second too!) while my companion opted for the quiche which she thought was less unusual and more agreeable to her palate at the time we visited.

Licorice meringue cookie from Kaffi Klassik

Licorice meringue cookie from Kaffi Klassik

We also had to have one of the licorice flavoured meringues… I don’t really like meringue – but I’ll suck it up for pretty much ANYTHING licorice-flavoured. (As expected, it was chewy and SO yummy!)

Quiche from Kaffi Klassik

Quiche from Kaffi Klassik

Crepe from Kaffi Klassik before digging in...

Crepe from Kaffi Klassik before digging in…

I don’t usually see these savory crepes here in Calgary – I’m seeing them more now – but do you know any place that you’d recommend here at home?

Reykjavik shoreline

Reykjavik shoreline

I’ll close with a photo of the shoreline looking across a bay to downtown Reykjavik. One thing I really love about Iceland is the diversity. Volcanos, deserted alien landscapes, black sand beaches, lush green hillsides, rocky shores, open meadows… it’s all there – and all within a few hours drive or less. The only thing you won’t find is a thick forest! LOL

My Icelandic friend Guðmundur told me a joke… “What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest?” My reply (and a close-enough response to the joke) “sit up”. 😀

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Out of town - Europe

 

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The Big Cheese – poutine in Kensington

Montreal Smoked Meat poutine from The Big Cheese in Kensington

Montreal Smoked Meat poutine from The Big Cheese in Kensington

A few weeks ago I was walking home really late and popped into The Big Cheese for a bite to eat – I was really far from home still and there were very few (non-bar) places open, so it might not have been my destination of choice, but it was a good option.

The menu of The Big Cheese in Kensington

The menu of The Big Cheese in Kensington

I ordered the Montreal Smoked Meat poutine, in the smaller size rather than the larger one – and it was really way too big. Not just the quantity of the food, but also once the fries and gravy cooled off – they were kind of icky. I’d rather split this with someone else and get it while it’s hot and tasty.

The meat was good, the fries were good, the grainy mustard was super good and I will NEVER turn down a pickle.. yum. So overall, I’d definitely have this again – though I think I’d rather go with a friend and split an order. (And then maybe go next door for dessert… hehe)

What about you – where’s the best poutine in Calgary in your opinion? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2017 in North-West Calgary

 

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Parc de la Chute-Montmorency

Lovely dessert

Lovely dessert

On the same trip where we visited the sugar shack and enjoyed Maple Syrup treats we also stopped at Parc de la Chute-Montmorency – the park with Montmorency Falls. There’s a charming hotel there, Manoir Montmorency. We had lunch there that was really lovely – in a room with a sky-painted ceiling. (Though no views of the falls unfortunately!)

My photos of the falls were super rushed, so they weren’t very good, so here’s a pretty photo from a photographer on Instagram!

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Out of town - Quebec

 

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New image style for Instagram

Gravlax and super tasty mustard from the cafe in Ikea - so pretty too!

Gravlax and super tasty mustard from the cafe in Ikea – so pretty too!

In my previous two posts I showed off the new style of images I’ll be using for Instagram (come follow me!) and there are a few more I thought I’d share here… ones I won’t necessarily be blogging about, but thought are pretty all the same.

Take out sushi from Sushi Ginza at Chinook Centre

Take out sushi from Sushi Ginza at Chinook Centre

The style doesn’t translate perfectly to the blog… but what do you think? Do you think you’d click a post with these graphics – or do you like the regular, unedited style better?

Lemon strudel from Kruse's bakery (located in the Market on MacLeod)

Lemon strudel from Kruse’s bakery (located in the Market on MacLeod)

Do you think that this style of graphic works well in the blog?

My companion's meal at Ikea - meatballs.. yummm

My companion’s meal at Ikea – meatballs.. yummm

Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

Carrot-cake "muffin" filled with cream cheese icing from Kruse's bakery (located in the Market on MacLeod)

Carrot-cake “muffin” filled with cream cheese icing from Kruse’s bakery (located in the Market on MacLeod)

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2017 in South-West Calgary, Sushi

 

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Salad doesn’t have to be boring….

Collage of photos from inside the Eau Claire Oil & Vinegar Bar

Collage of photos from inside the Eau Claire Oil & Vinegar Bar

In my previous blog post I shared some photos from inside the Eau Claire Oil & Vinegar bar – a clean, stylish shop in Eau Claire market. Today I’m going to share just a few quick photos of some of the salads I’ve put together using their product for dressings.

I don’t really LIKE to eat salad a lot – not that it’s not tasty.. it just gets BORING after a while. Putting these oils and vinegars (ok.. way more vinegar than oil.. I love the ZING) along with some delicious creamy goat cheese makes any salad WAY more interesting for me.

salad topped off with dressing from the Eau Claire Oil & Vinegar Bar

salad topped off with dressing from the Eau Claire Oil & Vinegar Bar

This is tomatoes, goat cheese, and leftover beets from the previous night’s dinner over mixed greens, with blackberry-ginger balsamic vinegar along with blood orange EVOO. YUM!

Red pepper, mushroom, goat cheese and spinach salad topped off with dressing from the salad topped off with dressing from the Eau Claire Oil & Vinegar Bar

Red pepper, mushroom, goat cheese and spinach salad topped off with dressing from the salad topped off with dressing from the Eau Claire Oil & Vinegar Bar

My friend doesn’t like mushrooms… but I like them, so I tossed mushrooms into MY salad.. but left them out for him. Red pepper gives lots of colour, goat cheese, and spinach are topped off with the Persian Lime Infused Olive Oil mixed with Pomegranate Dark Balsamic vinegar. YUM!
Finally one more – this is a salad with green, yellow, and red mini tomatoes, goat cheese…. & amazing dressing made with blackberry-ginger balsamic & blood orange evoo. It’s served up in my gorgeous hand-made blue pottery bowl that I got from an artisan’s show a while back.

I also picked up a few more flavours recently… now I need to find the perfect dish to try out the Dark Chocolate Dark Balsamic vinegar too…. it tastes so yummy just on it’s own. Ice cream maybe? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Downtown Calgary

 

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