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My Calgary: Eats of Asia

Eats of Asia 2

One of my favourite places to eat in Calgary is only open Friday through Sunday and has just four seats. Eats of Asia resides in a little booth at Crossroads Farmers Market, but the space it occupies now actually seems huge compared to where it used to be. I first discovered this little gem at Market on Macleod, another Calgary farmers market, where it was literally a hole in the wall, barely big enough for two people to move around in. Their small stature was in no way detrimental to the quality of their food, though. It was love at first bite!

Eats of Asia 1

Eats of Asia serves just that – a variety of dishes inspired by the cuisines of my favourite culinary continent. From Sichuan, to Japanese, to Korean, to Taiwanese, to Filipino, Jay and his team do a bit of everything, and they do it all very well. They even sneak in a fun little nod to Hawaii with their Spam Musubi – everyone’s favourite canned meat wrapped in rice and seaweed. Pulling inspiration from so many different cuisines can be a dangerous endeavour, and I’ve seen many places try it and fail, but these guys know what they’re doing.

Eats of Asia 3 Eats of Asia 4

I’ve tried many of Eats of Asia’s offerings and have yet to be disappointed. Order the Dan Dan Noodles and you’ll be treated to a unique performance as one of the chefs hand pulls giant strands of dough right before your eyes. The chewy noodles and tender, gingery pork you’ll receive when it’s all said and done proves that the dish has lots of substance to go along with its style. The Lucky Pig Bao also features pork, but this time it’s a juicy piece of belly stuffed inside a pillowy soft steamed bun and topped with sweet hoisin and crunchy peanuts. If you’re looking for a southern staple with a twist, watch social media to see when the Korean Chicken and Waffles are on the menu. Crispy but oh so juicy, the chicken is everything you could want and more, and it’s fried in bite sized pieces, which gives extra surface area for that crunchy coating. The waffles have no trouble standing up to the savoury gochujang sauce and the subtly sweet syrup – no soggy waffles to be found here! If your chicken and waffles dreams aren’t destined to come true, Eats of Asia also offers the chicken on its own. Think of an order of chicken nuggets with an enormous flavour boost and way less mystery meat.

If you head down to Crossroads Market on a weekend you might see me at Eats of Asia, waiting to try something else off of their incredible menu. They also bring out their food truck every now and then, so these far east flavours might be coming to a ‘hood near you. Don’t worry, I won’t judge you if you order one of everything.

My Five: Favourite Songs Right Now

I go through phases with songs. I’ll listen to certain tracks over and over again until I get sick of them, and then move on to something new. Oftentimes when I go back and listen to those songs months down the road they remind me so vividly of that point in my life when they were such a huge part of the soundtrack of my days. It’s amazing the power music has to bring you right back!

Here are five songs I’m really digging right now.

1. Mike Edel – East Shore West Shore

I talked about Mike when I went to see him in concert earlier this month. Now his new album is out, and I love it just as much as his last! This song especially stands out for me – I love the gorgeous male/female harmonies running through it.

2. CHVRCHES – We Sink

I had heard a few tracks off of CHVRCHES’ album, but it was only recently that I’d explored beyond the hits. I love the dancy, driving beat of this one. It now has a secure spot on my running playlist!

3. Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams

This has been my favourite jam ever since my sister introduced me to it on our way up to the lake. Taylor Kirk’s voice is silky smooth, and the sax at the end is as sultry as can be. Romantics beware, this one will get you!

4. Mark Ronson – I Can’t Lose

We all know his world famous duet with Bruno Mars, but there’s a lot of great stuff on Mark Ronson’s Uptown Special beyond Uptown Funk. This song is so fun and upbeat, and the liberal use of horns and old school harmonies make it a little different than your average hit.

5. AronChupa – I’m an Albatrosz

And now for something that falls firmly into the guilty pleasure category… This song is pure fun. The lyrics are totally nonsensical, but when the beat is this good and the song’s full of so much quirky playfulness, who really cares?

Cooking for One

Cooking for one

Since Zevi is working up in Northern Alberta now, I’m on my own every second week. I miss him when he’s away for a lot of reasons, but one thing that I’ve really been struggling with is figuring out how to cook for just me. Normally when Zevi is around, I make a meal plan at the start of the week and go grocery shopping to get everything I’ll need for the next five to seven days. You can often find me on a Sunday sitting on the couch surrounded in cookbooks and food magazines as I figure out what I’m in the mood for on that particular week. I usually plan out three or four meals because I know that inevitably we won’t feel like cooking one night, we’ll have leftovers from another meal, or we’ll just want to make something random with what we have in our fridge. I’ve been using that system for the last few years and it generally works out pretty well.

With Zevi gone, I’ve been trying to do the same thing as I’ve always done but it hasn’t really been working. I’ve been trying to meal plan as I always do, but most recipes make at least four servings, so I end up having tons of leftovers. I have a deep love for leftovers, and I happily eat them all the time, but when I make something and then end up having to eat it for the next three days, even the best leftovers start to lose their appeal. Normally I love to cook, but lately I’ve almost been dreading it, and nothing sounds appealing to me. I have a bunch of food in my fridge, but tonight I made a smoothie for dinner because nothing else sounded good. This is so unlike me!

Zevi comes back tomorrow, so I have a week to think about how to turn my attitude around on cooking for one. This is going to be my reality for the foreseeable future, so I have to learn how to make it work! I think I need to start scaling back the recipes I’m making, or get better at being creative with my leftovers. Either that or I’ll just be eating grilled cheese sandwiches, salads, eggs, and ramen when I’m on my own.

Do you have any tips on cooking for one? I’d love to hear them!

Calgary Poutine Week

dtf poutine

One of the most delicious weeks of the year in Calgary started today. If you’re a fan of squeaky cheese, crispy fries, and delicious gravy, then this is the week for you. Calgary Poutine week is back for its second year, and 49 restaurants around the city are offering up their unique takes on the dish. There’s a great reason to eat as much as you can (beyond the fact that poutine is one of mankind’s greatest culinary creations), as every poutine sold benefits Mealshare, a charity that provides meals to people in need.

I’m excited to check out a few of the poutines around the city next week. I’ll definitely be trying Anju’s iteration, and there are a lot of others that sound pretty tempting. Next Saturday I’ll be heading out with some other crazy poutine enthusiasts on the fifth annual poutine crawl. It was a great day last year, and I’m sure it will be equally yummy and stomach-testing this time around.

If you’re in Calgary, make sure you head to one of the participating restaurants and eat some fries and gravy for a good cause. If you ever feel like you need to justify your poutine consumption, this is the perfect excuse!

Mendoza

Mendoza barrels

After our harrowing salt flats experience, the nineteen hour overnight bus ride from Salta to Mendoza seemed like a breeze. We actually got a pretty good sleep on the bus, and I cried watching The Fault In Our Stars even though movies almost never get me going. Maybe I was extra emotional from our crazy adventure, or maybe the movie really is that sad… who knows. We’d gotten the lowest ticket class for that trip because we were trying to save money after our delay at the salt flats had made us miss our scheduled bus departure, but the ride was much better than I expected.

Maria Antonieta salad

When we arrived in Mendoza, we were both pretty hungry as the food on the bus was virtually inedible (by far the worst part of the experience). It would have been better had they told us there wouldn’t be any food so that we could have brought our own. Once we’d lugged our bags a couple kilometres from the bus station to our hostel, we went out in search of some lunch. Our trusty Trip Advisor app pointed us in the direction of Maria Antonieta, where we sat outside on a beautiful sidewalk patio and had one of the best meals of our trip. Well, mine was incredible – Zevi’s may not have been anything to write home about. I ordered a giant salad with pears, arugula, prosciutto, and burrata, and the combination of the sweet fruit, the peppery greens, the salty meat, and the creamy cheese was pretty darn close to heaven on a plate. Good quality meal sized salads had been hard to come by up to that point on our trip, which made this one extra amazing. I love the meat and carb thing that Argentina does so well, but sometimes a big pile of veggies really hit the spot (with some meat and cheese in the mix of course ;)).

The hostel that we stayed in in Mendoza was up there with the best that we stayed at. Although the room and bathrooms were nothing special, perhaps even on the shabby side, it had the elements that we’d come to realize were most important. The breakfasts were delicious and plentiful, including your choice of crepes or fried eggs and a variety of pastries and fruit. Our favourite hostels all had something that brought people together, and Square Independencia facilitated that in the form of free wine for two hours every evening. On the first night that we were there, we sat outside on their enclosed patio and drank wine with a bunch of fellow travellers. It was a great way to get people mingling (what backpacker can resist a free drink?), and we connected with a girl from Italy and a guy from Washington who we ended up going on a wine tour with the next day.

Carmelo PiatiAlta Vista barrels Pulmary cave

As most people know, Mendoza is famous for its wineries and is probably one of the most well known wine growing regions in the world. There are a few wine growing areas within a reasonable distance of the city, and we decided to take the bus out to an area called Lujan de Cuyo and do a bike tour. Getting our tour set up was a breeze – we showed up at Baccus Bikes in Chacras de Coria in the late morning, and they recommended four different wineries, making reservations where necessary. The bikes were great and the service was excellent! It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day for a bike ride – the sun was shining and the air was pleasantly warm but not stifling.

Wine at PulmaryAlta Vista tasting

We made four stops on our tour, and each was very different from the last. Carmelo Piatti is a relatively small operation that only advertises through word of mouth, and we got to hear about the wine making process from Carmelo himself. Pulmary is an organic winery where we got to stand in what used to be giant underground vats for storing table wine, as Argentinians used to drink that stuff like juice. We also ate a great lunch outside on the patio at Pulmary, complete with a visit from their two dogs who may have been getting a few too many scraps from tourists. From there we went to Alta Vista, by far the fanciest stop on our itinerary, and tasted wines in the French consulate, which is attached to the winery. Our final destination was a little store where we got the opportunity to taste a bunch of different dips and spreads as well as some sweet treats. We also got to try two different types of liquor, and both Zevi and I chose to test out the Absinthe. Our curiosity has now been satisfied, and I don’t think we’ll be going for that again any time soon.

Concepto Oliva Mendoza wine tasting

The next day was my birthday, and it ended up being one of my favourite days of our entire trip. We were a little disappointed when our plan to head out to the Uco Valley for some wine tasting was foiled because we couldn’t rent a car, but we ended up doing some things around the city that were just as good, if not better! The night before, we’d had the opportunity to do an olive oil tasting with a local farmer at our hostel, and we liked the oil so much that we decided to go and try out his restaurant in a nearby town. Concepto Oliva is in Maipu, which is easily accessible by train from Mendoza. The restaurant had just opened shortly before we visited, so they were still getting the word out, and we had the place to ourselves! Our food was amazing, and we were presented with complimentary olive oil ice cream to top it all off, which was out of this world delicious. We couldn’t resist doing another olive oil tasting before our meal because the oils are amazing! We were very stingy with what we bought as we had limited space in our backpack, but we knew we had to bring home one of the olive oils. We carried it around for the rest of our trip and we’re still enjoying it now. That afternoon we headed to a tasting room called Vines of Mendoza for a little wine sampling without the commute. We shared one of the higher end flights and a flight of the younger wines, and found some real gems. It was great to be able to taste so many different types of wine in one spot. I love going to wineries for tastings, but this was an awesome experience in a different way!

We left Mendoza wishing we could have stayed a couple more days. On the night we had to catch our bus, we had one last glass of free wine on the patio with our new friends, and lamented the fact that we couldn’t stay and party with them a little bit longer. There are so many more wine growing valleys in the Mendoza area that we didn’t explore, so I guess we’ll just have to go back!

On Pesto

Whenever I smell basil, I think of my grandmother.

Before my first birthday, my mom’s parents moved out to a house just outside Victoria, BC. It was on a large piece of land with huge gardens, many guest rooms, and a pool in the back yard. Between the pool, the myriad of stuffed animals left over from my aunts’ and uncle’s childhood days, the expansive yard, and the hallway perfect for hop, skipping and jumping down, it was a grandchild’s dream. Living a full day’s drive away, we weren’t able to go out there that often, but we usually made the trip at least a couple times a year. It was my happy place, where my mom’s large family would congregate to eat dinners on the patio, play chinese checkers and hide-and-seek in the garden, and watch Oklahoma.

Starting from the age of eight or nine, I would spend time alone at my grandparents’ house. I remember flying as an “unaccompanied minor”, and feeling the thrill of getting on the plane alone for the first time. My Grandpa and I would do crossword puzzles and go on outings to the museum or the beach. We often had a special dinner at an italian restaurant, where I tried, and loved, gnocci for the first time. I felt privileged to be able to have that alone time with my grandparents. It was a treasured part of every summer.

Whether out on the coast alone or with my family, my Nannie’s cooking was always a huge part of our visit. Using the amazing bounty from her garden, she would make amazing meals for groups large and small. While many of my friends described their grandparents’ cooking as simple and straightforward, my Nannie used flavours from around the world in her cooking, with wonderful results. She sometimes made her own pasta, and always, ALWAYS made her own bread. Often we ate from uniquely shape loaves that were skinny at the bottom and fat at the top, the result of her baking her bread in flower pots. “Flower pot bread” was a standard in our family; only when I think about it now do I realize how unique that really was.

And pesto. My Nannie made the best pesto. Among all of the amazing food that she made for us over the years, her pesto was something that I always looked forward to, and she would have it for us most every time we went out there. At the end of one of my solo trips out there, my Grandpa took me to the airport, only to find that my flight was delayed (this was pre-online check-in days, of course). Since they lived quite close to the Victoria airport, we decided to go back to their house and wait there for a while. When we returned, I was overjoyed to walk in to a familiar smell. My Nannie’s pesto. I ate a huge plate of macaroni with that delicious green sauce, and said a secret thank you to the airplane gods for making things run a little late.

With my grandparents’, and especially my Nannie’s, health declining, they had to sell that beautiful house a few years ago. As a child, I always figured that the house would be in the family forever, because that was our place, the place where we went to create happy memories and share food, laughs, and love. As I got older, though I knew it was unrealistic, I secretly held on to the wish that maybe, somehow, the house would stay as it always was, frozen in time, as a keeper of our most cherished memories. I would take my children there, and they would play in the garden and the pool as I had. But one day we were sifting through their belongings, trying to help them get rid of what they no longer needed, and then a few months later, we were walking through the garden for the last time. And that was it. It didn’t seem possible, but the house was no longer ours.

I don’t remember the last time I ate my Nannie’s pesto, or where I was. I do know that every time I smell basil I think of my Nannie, and the way that she nourished my family and me with her cooking and her love on our trips out to the coast. I’ve had pesto innumerable times at countless locations, but it is forever associated with her. Every time I make pesto, I think of my Nannie. And I am thankful for the memories that come flooding back.

My Calgary: Postino

Julia at Postino

I often lament the lack of good coffee shops in northwest Calgary. I’ve been meeting friends at Higher Ground in Kensington for years, but I generally end up going south of downtown when I’m in search of a great cafe. Postino, located just a hop, skip, and a jump from McMahon Stadium and the University of Calgary, was a welcome discovery for me as it fills that north Calgary void I’ve been complaining about.

Postino
Although it’s pretty far removed from the downtown core, Postino is chic and modern enough to hang with 17th avenue’s best. With an unadorned concrete ceiling, funky metal chairs, and a beautiful wood and white bar, the space is simple but cool enough to let you know they’ve put some thought in to their design decisions. A row of windows face Crowchild trail, letting that signature Calgary sunshine in. There’s still a little bit of coffee shop coziness, as the east side is lined with tables for two flanked by low, cushy chairs. Whether you’re in a big group, or you just want some quiet study time by yourself, there’s something for everyone here!
Postino Sandwich
A great interior is all well and good, but we all know that if the coffee and the food aren’t top notch I won’t be a repeat customer. For their coffee, they’ve gone with Calgary mainstay Phil and Sebastian, and you can always count on those guys to produce a good brew. The latte art may not be up to the standard of some of the city’s cafes, but the cappuccinos taste great, and that’s what really matters. They feature some unique food offerings, including a vegetarian “naanwitch” stuffed with cauliflower, onions and hummus, and miso-spiked cookies (which I still want to try!). My sister and I ordered the Naanwitch and the deliciously gooey Pear and Brie Grilled Cheese Sandwich, and both were piping hot and full of flavour. They both came with a side of sweet and salty crunchy beet and yam chips, and for less than ten dollars we felt like we were getting a pretty great deal! Postino also serves alcohol, so it’s a great option for some after work or after class indulgences.

I’m always hopeful that more cool places will open in my neighborhood, and although this isn’t right in my backyard, the fact that I don’t have to factor rush hour traffic in to my drive there is a big plus. For those of you who live in the northwest, and those of you who just want to check out a cool spot away from the usual crowds, Postino is a great choice!

Postino
2520 Capitol Hill Crescent NW

The Ups and Downs of Half Marathon Training

Calgary pathwayI’m training for my sixth half marathon, and even after going through the paces that many times, I’m far from immune to the roller coaster ride that comes with preparing for a long distance race. One day I’m totally in the zone and things are going great, and then the next day I find myself doubting everything and feeling like there’s no way I’m going to get through the race. Realistically, unless there’s a serious mishap, I’ll be able to run the 21.1 kilometres on May 31st – I’ve done it before and I should be able to do it again. But that doesn’t stop me from questioning my abilities when things don’t seem to be going my way.

When I was out in the Shuswap over Easter weekend, I was feeling great about running. I went for three runs that all felt strong, including a hill workout where my cool down was faster than my warmup, and a 5k where I was able to maintain my goal race pace the entire time. The roads around our cabin are super hilly, so I was feeling pretty excited about the speeds I was hitting on that tough terrain. I’d really like to finish in less than two hours, and beat my PR of 1:59:01 if things really go my way, and after a seemingly successful weekend in BC those goals seemed to be within my reach.

I got back home to Calgary and all of a sudden everything seemed hard. All three runs that I’ve done in the last week have felt less than stellar, and there was no trace of that powerful feeling I had when I was in BC.  It’s always hard to tell how much of it is actually physical and how much of it is in my head, and then the more I feel like something is physically wrong the more it affects my mental game. I can convince myself of almost anything when I feel like I want to stop, but I also don’t want to disregard some kind of injury if there really is something wrong. Ugh. Anyways, I’m hoping that this is just a passing thing, and that soon I’ll be able to get back to feeling strong again.

Do you go through bad weeks when you train for a race? Tell me it’s not just me!

My New (Internet) Home

Heather Coffee Shop
After thinking about it for quite some time, I finally took the plunge today and bought my own domain name! I’ve been playing around with some things on this new platform, and I’m excited to keep fiddling around and discovering what it has to offer. Moving to wordpress.org means that I have a lot more freedom to customize the site, so things will probably continue to change until I figure out exactly what I like.

The url has changed, but the writing will stay pretty much the same. Thanks for checking out my new internet home!

On Fear

Heather Baldy Pass

You know those ubiquitous Lululemon bags? I’m sure you’ve seen them – they’re full of motivational sayings and tidbits on what you should do to stay in good shape both physically and mentally. The phrase “do one thing every day that scares you” has always stood out to me from that sea of uplifting messages. I think it’s because at first it’s easy to dismiss this idea as a crazy one. Why would I want to do something that makes me feel afraid and uncomfortable? That certainly doesn’t sound like it would be good for my well-being.

And yet, when I ponder it again, I realize that some of the most amazing things I’ve done in my life have scared the crap out of me. I remember crying on the phone to Zevi as I waited in the Toronto airport for my flight to Iceland eight years ago, terrified that I would spend six weeks feeling incredibly homesick. I wiped my tears away and got on that plane, and had a completely life-changing and heart-expanding experience. I could barely breathe as I got on the phone with Craig Norris to guest host on CBC Radio 3, and came away feeling an even stronger connection to an amazing community. A very tiny part of my subconscious hoped that something would happen to derail our trip to South America so that I wouldn’t have to face the terrifying decision to quit my job and come back to uncertainty, but those three months enriched my life and my relationship with Zevi in a way that makes them impossible to regret.

Fear doesn’t just rear it’s head when it comes time to take a huge leap. It’s there every day – that little voice that says that maybe I shouldn’t put myself out there or try something new. It’s that little voice that tells me that it would be easier to just stay home, to stay within the confines of my comfort zone. I find myself pushing past that voice all the time, and I know I’m so much better for it.

When I feel that clutching in my heart that whispers at me to hold back, I give it a nod and a smile, because I know that it means that I’m doing something right. I’m doing something that will expand my horizons and ultimately leaving me feeling alive. Fear is a tough adversary, and it’s beaten me on more than one occasion, but if history is any indication it’s is also a good friend.