Calgary Herald's review of Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse is titled "The More the Meatier." One look at the menu and you'll see why—dinner service features serves 11 meats, including lamb, chicken, pork, and beef varieties. But there's more to the Beltline restaurant than skewers of barbecued protein. Read on to learn more about the Brazilian steakhouse below:
Co-owner and chef Joao Dachery was born and raised in the Pampas, the Prairie region of Brazil where Brazilian barbecue was born. Surprisingly, however, he began his career as a business owner. Fortunately, he discovered his passion for his native land's succulent cuisine, attended culinary school, and joined Oscar Lopez to open Pampa. The rest is history.
The Scoop on All Those Meats
Pampa's dinner menu features a whopping six different kinds of beef, all coming from different parts of the steer with varying levels of tenderness, flavor, and texture. Among them, there's the ultra tender filet mignon, which cooks wrap with juicy pieces of sizzling bacon, as well as the much leaner and chewier bottom sirloin. And that's just the beef—there's also two different pork options, two chicken options, and a marinated leg of lamb.
Rodizio dining is viewed as a lengthy, casual affair, with each meat serving as a different course. With that in mind, guests can pair their skewers with any of Pampa's 1,700 bottles of carefully selected wine. If that number is a bit overwhelming, check out these pairing suggestions:
The tannins of Chile's Concha Y Toro Don Melchor cabernet sauvignon perfectly compliment slices of the marinated lamb legs.
Dr. Pauly Bergweiler riesling's acidity helps balance the richness of Pampa's flavorful pork sausage.
Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin, a robust, Bordeaux-inspired blend from the Okanagan Valley, goes exceptionally well with the AAA top sirloin.
In 1997, Gurnek Singh Gill opened Clay Oven and hasn't looked back since. The restaurant's Punjabi cuisine is nearly as ubiquitous as Chinese buffets and includes familiar-sounding dishes, such as chicken tandoori, biryani, and dal makhani. However, the different styles of Punjabi bread may be less familiar.
Naan: The most mainstream, this leavened bread is made from white flour, then baked in the tandoor clay oven.
Chapati: This bread is unleavened, and therefore thinner than naan. It's made from wheat that's dry baked on a griddle, or tava.
Tandoori roti: Also made from wheat, roti is slightly thicker than chapati and baked in the tandoor.
Parantha: Instead of being baked, this whole-wheat bread is shallow fried in a pan. When it's filled with veggies, it's known as aloo parantha.
From the Press
"Flavourful classics include lamb vindaloo and chicken biryani, as well as the unexpected — flame-roasted eggplant and spicy lentil soup — all mopped up with some of the best Indian breads you'll find anywhere." — Avenue Calgary
"The choices are plentiful, but I always order the bhaigan bharta . . . My taste buds are first hit with the light acidity of fresh eggplant, then the spices roll over my tongue and then the smokiness hits, tying it all together." — John Gilchrist, Calgary Herald
"Every bite [of the tandoori chicken] is bursting with flavour." — Fast Forward Weekly
As Justin Lussier traveled through Naples in 2005, he decided to stop for the city's famous pizza at a small street-side eatery bearing the sign Pizzeria Sorbillo. He loved his traditional thin-crust pie so much that he rushed to a pay phone and called his friends Christian Bullock and Jason Allard to tell them that he wanted to make that same pizza. When Justin returned to Canada, the trio travelled to confer with the culinary experts at Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) in order to uncover what truly makes a pizza Neapolitan. Two years later, the friends set out to open Famoso.
Famoso's chefs all follow strict guidelines set by the AVPN—they only use OO Caputo flour imported from Naples, and they hand mill tomatoes imported from the foot of Mount Vesuvius, where each crop is grown in soil enriched by volcanic ash and sung to daily by volcanologists. Chefs top the crust with local fior di latte mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and pecorino romano cheese. They then spread dough into wafer-thin disks, which they blast-fire at 900 degrees for 90 seconds inside imported Italian bell-shaped ovens. Pizzas are also topped with ingredients such as soppressata, oven-roasted Italian sausage, kalamata olives, and truffle oil.
Famoso Baristas can pair many of these pies, some of which are reinvented twice each year, with a mix of local and international wines—including vintages from Italy and Canada—and hand-crafted gelato. At each restaurant, they ferry dishes and drinks through rustic and inviting interiors, each of which reflects the unique style of its neighbourhood, though all are united by accents of exposed brick and wood, wine-bottle art, and sculptural pizza-box displays.
At Catch & the Oyster Bar, the first floor’s casual, neighbourhood environment resounds with friendly chatter and the crackle of shells being shucked amid the oyster bar’s sandstone walls. The second floor, on the other hand, offers a more sophisticated restaurant setting, where industrial-chic elements, such as metal shelving and lofty ceilings, serve as conversation pieces as guests dive into a dinner menu of artfully assembled seafood entrees. No matter where diners prefer to sit, they can experience Catch & the Oyster Bar’s continent-spanning cuisine, including Nova Scotia lobster, dungeness crab from British Columbia, and coastal fish that arrive daily by plane or T-shirt cannon.
In the kitchen, Executive Chef Kyle Groves keeps his culinary approach simple by allowing natural ingredients—such as herbs harvested on the restaurant’s rooftop garden—to speak for themselves without being muddled by too much complexity. The chef’s creations and mastery of European cooking techniques have earned the restaurant multiple awards for its seafood, and a top-five spot on Calgary's Top 10 Restaurants of 2012 in Avenue magazine.
With a small spark and a cry of "Opa!" Greek brandy ignites, causing flames to erupt from a pan of kefalotyri cheese. But the theatrical saganaki presentation is deceiving—GreekTown Kitchen & Wine Bar is decidedly laid-back. From its airy interior featuring repurposed mason-jar chandeliers to its menu of homestyle Mediterranean cooking, the taverna invites guests to sit back and relax.
From the Press
". . . GreekTown delivered solidly delicious fare, served with a warmth that was just as consistent." — Calgary Sun
"The menu includes favourites such as spanakopita, souvlaki and moussaka, but adds little twists. The souvlaki comes in seven different styles, including vegetarian, calamari and smoked duck." — Calgary Herald
"Stand-out dishes include domatokeftedes (tomato and cheese fritters) and locally raised, fall-off-the-bone lamb shank." — Where Canada
The Ingredients' Origins
Chefs bring in many ingredients from Greece, such as barrel-aged feta, mountain-grown oregano, and cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil. These imported ingredients lend their distinctive flavors to entrees that showcase locally raised Alberta lamb, pork, and free-range chicken. To complement these succulent dishes, the menu features a selection of red and white Greek wines.
Within Cornerstone Theatre's 6,000 square feet of raw Manitoba barn board and Alberta pine exists one of the world's only opportunities to be served a steaming hot meal by a singing mountie. The tuneful do-gooder is joined by one of Green Gables' many Annes, a melodious hockey player, the inimitable Klondike Kitty, and other wacky national characters in the Oh Canada Eh? dinner show. Over its 10-season run, the show has evolved to take in charting pop hits along with maritime folk songs and a rousing national-anthem closer.
Between bouts of onstage hilarity, the performer/servers whoosh from table to red-checkered table bearing an authentic Canadian feast, from an opener of French Canadian–style pea soup to entrees that include Alberta–style roast beef and Manitoba–style roast chicken. Humming along between bites, diners can sample any course they like and are welcome to ask for seconds. A round of maple-chocolate cake wraps up the extravaganza while providing an edible lumberjack beard of frosting.
Aside from the raucous Oh Canada Eh? dinner show, Cornerstone Theatre’s schedule also fills up with other special events such as Comedy Night, where stand-up comedians who have appeared on television launch their punch lines toward funny bones. Patrons can also rent out Cornerstone Theatre for special events of their own, such as wedding receptions, private parties, and corporate meetings.
Siu mai: small pork dumplings. Each has a thin wrapper that needs to be delicately pleated by hand. Easily, they’re one of the most labor-intensive items at Phoenix Restaurant in Chicago, where each weekend this Chinese restaurant serves 80 different varieties of classic dim sum snacks.
This little fact about the siu mai is one of many surprising stories I learn from Eddy, the chef at Phoenix, where he also handles a million other tasks to keep the restaurant running smoothly. When I first came in, he was waving at a group of regulars while on the phone haggling with a seafood vendor.
“What we are serving in this restaurant is what we are eating in Hong Kong. ... It’s very typical,” Eddy says.
In 1996, Phoenix was one of the first restaurants to introduce dim sum to Chicago. Its customer base has grown over the years, and today, even with other dim sum restaurants up and down the block, you’ll find long lines winding out the door on any given Sunday.
Sound intimidating? It doesn't have to be.
Here's our guide to dim-sum dining, with a few tips from Eddy.
On the weekend: order dim sum off a cart
On weekends and special holidays, the wait staff winds traditional dim sum carts around tables, lifting lids off stacked steamer baskets to reveal the enticing contents. Should you see something you like, they leave the basket on your table and put a checkmark on your bill (it’s tallied at the end).
Phoenix is one of the only dim-sum restaurants in Chicago that still uses these carts. When I ask Eddy why they keep them, he says “tradition.” Not only to impress the tourists who come in, but also to let Chinese-American customers share this bit of culture with their kids.
Hot tip: if you want to experience the pushcarts without the crowds, head over on a Saturday, which tends to be less busy than Sundays, Eddy says.
On a weekday: order dim sum off the menu
Cartless weekdays offer a quiet, more peaceful atmosphere for ordering off the paper menu, which you can find near the hostess stand. Don't be intimidated—the menu has pictures; it has numbers; it has names written in both Chinese and English. And best of all, you need only point to what you want to have it brought out from the kitchen.
So what should you get?
“Everyone has their favorites,” Eddy says. The most popular dishes with Westerners are ha gao (shrimp dumplings) and siu mai (pork dumplings mentioned above). Kids gravitate toward the crunchy, easy-to-grip shrimp rolls and sweeter fare, from mango pudding (pictured above) to custard rolls.
Foreign travelers, especially those from Latin America, and adventurous eaters alike seem to love the chicken feet (pictured at bottom-right of top photo), a more exotic dish consisting of skin and tendons. While all these dishes are traditional, the chefs can tweak the recipes to accommodate for special diets or food allergies.
When diners are new to dim sum, Eddy encourages them to experiment. He’ll point out a few of the more popular dishes; if there’s something they don’t end up liking, it can easily be swapped out for something else. This way, by the second or third visit, diners will have a better idea of what they like.
And don't forget the tea
At dim sum, the tea is equally important to the food. Phoenix serves three different types: green tea, white tea, and brown tea. “Each one has its own usage,” Eddy says. While we talk, we drink jasmine tea, which is good for getting rid of toxins.
You can show your dim sum know-how by obeying proper tea etiquette. When your teapot is out of water, prop the lid off to the side. This signals to the wait staff that you need more hot water.
Eddy pours more tea and tells me to tap my fingers lightly against the table when the cup is nearly full. “When your friend or host fills your tea, this means ‘thank you’,” he says. “It’s part of the custom.”
Photos by Andrew Nawrocki, Groupon
I had no idea what to expect upon arriving at Elizabeth, the Michelin Star winner from Chef Iliana Regan. But an unmarked, unremarkable storefront between a tire shop and a sporting-goods store certainly wasn’t it. With few exceptions (Schwa, most notably), Chicago’s upper-echelon restaurants boast exteriors that match their illustrious River North and Restaurant Row addresses.
But as it turns out, Regan has no taste for that sort of superficial flash. She dons no chef’s whites. She displays no awards. She does not raise her voice to the Gordon Ramsay–level roar or even the Rachael Ray-ish rollick that TV cameras eat up.
Instead, this northwest Indiana native quietly built her reputation as someone who hunts for frogs and spears them herself. Someone who has suffered tick bites and poison-ivy rashes foraging for wild flora. Someone who has penned an essay on intensity for Lucky Peach and once themed an Elizabeth tasting menu after those violent and visceral A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
So yeah, I was kinda terrified to eat her food.
I’d never done a tasting menu before. And I wouldn’t necessarily classify myself as a picky eater, but I’m not a particularly adventurous one either, particularly when it comes to meat. (I can barely look at plated octopus without shivering.) I’d heard that Regan once served edible ants. Which are, like, bugs.
My nerves were calmed upon walking into Elizabeth, though. Austere yet charming, the whitewashed space was accented by light fixtures made from bare tree branches; dining chairs draped with faux-fur slipcovers; a chef’s counter armed with Elder Scrolls and Vikings Funko Pop! dolls. It was all in support of the season’s menu theme: vikings.
There were two options: land or sea. Or, as the first in a delightful succession of servers explained it, “Imagine a viking ship has reached the shore. One group goes on land to look for food, the other into the sea.” My friend Erin and I opted to order one of each to share and, despite my trepidation of certain meats, placed no restrictions on what we would eat. (You can arrange for some allergies and dietary needs in advance.) We wanted to go all in.
After the amuse-bouche—a surprisingly complex roasted whey carrot dressed with goat’s-milk cheese and edible flowers—came our first courses. The land dish was … a bowl of rocks. The server assured me the top “rock” was actually a baked potato coated in edible clay. But it was very convincing as a rock, so I bit in with trepidation. As Erin ate the rest, dipping it into the cheese and butter puddings it was served with, I forked into her langoustine with lingonberries. (Pro tip: don’t try to tear off the claw without looking. You will stab your finger on a spine.) So far, so very good.
As the servers continued to weave their culinary narrative, I realized there was an unmentioned character in their tale—Elizabeth itself. The restaurant is small, seating about 16 or so, and the kitchen is wide open. It was impossible not to get caught up in what was happening back there, particularly when sous chefs were wielding brûlée torches and “plating” on gorgeous pieces of handmade pottery. And the line between front and back of house was practically nonexistent. One moment, you’d see someone in the kitchen stirring and slicing; the next they’d be presenting your next course or clearing your table. (Chef Regan included.)
This created an unexpected intimacy, one that removed any hesitation when asking about a particular dish. It’s clear the teammates take a deep yet quiet pride in their collective work. They spoke warmly about where ingredients came from, excitedly about the preparation techniques used. They always used “we” or “our,” never “me” or “Chef Regan.” (Again, Chef Regan included.)
Over the next few courses, there were so many charms. An herb-rolled, soft-boiled quail egg served in an actual nest; impossibly chewy seaweed bread darkened by squid ink; a cauliflower-mushroom soup that Erin about died over. I was particularly fond of a course called Barnyard: headcheese dusted with beet powder, paired with a collage of root vegetables and flavored puddings reminiscent of something out of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing.
And that’s the thing. Never in my life would I have thought that I’d be fond of headcheese. I would have probably never eaten it if it weren’t for this meal. But it was fun to break out of my culinary comfort zone.
The other surprising thing? How full we were, considering it was a tasting menu. By the time we were served the entree courses—rare lamb medallions wrapped in swiss chard and pickled fish in a sauce of its own bones—we were taking deep breaths between bites. I’m pretty sure they were the only two plates we didn’t completely clean.
We managed to buck up for our “one-and-a-half” dessert courses, as the server put it. (The “half” was a palate-cleansing sorbet.) Our favorite was Under the Sea, a spongy coral-seaweed cake so realistic looking it prompted me to ask the server just how much of it we could eat. “All of it,” she said. We complied.
Maybe, as a writer, I’m just a sucker for a good story. But I was enchanted by Elizabeth, both in backstory and in not knowing what was coming next throughout the culinary adventure. And while I probably won’t be buying headcheese any time soon, I’m excited to see what Chef Regan has up her non-chef’s-whites sleeves next season.
Shop Chef Iliana Regan's tasting-menu experience at Elizabeth Restaurant:
Watch her explain her approach to fine dining:
As useful as WD40 and much more edible, coconut oil is a powerhouse. In fact, just one jar of the stuff can replace several household staples, from kitchen ingredients to baby wipes. Here’s how to substitute it for 16 total items in 3 rooms of the home:
1. Coffee: Coconut oil is a reputed energy booster. Swallowing a spoonful or two in the afternoon can be a healthful alternative to a cuppa.2. Coffee creamer: Emulsified and poured into coffee, it’s much tastier than (and probably just as nutritious as) that bulletproof stuff.3. Butter or oil (when sautéing): Coconut oil’s high smoke point makes it great for cooking on the stovetop, especially at high heat. Try swapping it in when making stir-fries, scrambled eggs, or pancakes, especially if you like a very mild coconut flavor.4. Oil (when baking): The oil imparts a delicious je ne sais quoi to baked goods—even boxed ones. Use it to give from-the-box brownies an upgrade, and you’ll dream about them for days.5. Condiments: Drop it into quinoa or oatmeal for added nutrients and healthy fats. You can also put it on top of sweet potatoes instead of butter!
6. Moisturizer: It works on your body and your face. It’s naturally SPF 4, so it offers a bit of protection from UV rays, too.7. Leave-in conditioner and anti-static agent: Rub a small amount between your hands and smooth them over your hair to control flyaways.8. Lip balm: It soothes sore, chapped lips, and other skin irritations.9. Eye-makeup remover: Rub it between your fingers until it liquefies, smear it on your lids, and wipe it off with a cotton pad.10. Face wash: Add a little water and rub it in your hands until it foams.11. Hand and foot cream: Massage it into cracked knuckles, or slather it onto your soles and stick them into socks for an overnight soak.12. Shaving cream: It’ll give you a smooth shave, plus additional moisture for your skin.
13. Ouchie ointment: Dab it on cuts and scrapes, which will benefit from its antimicrobial properties.14. Anti-itch cream: Coconut oil reduces itching from bug bites, and helps to calm sunburn, eczema, and cradle cap.15. Diaper cream: A layer on baby’s bottom guards against (and soothes) diaper rash flare-ups.16. Baby wipes: Simply mix it with hot water and pour it over a stack of paper towels that you’ve cut in half. Keep the towels in an airtight container so they stay moist.
Check out more coconut-oil coverage:
Oil Pulling Whitens Your Teeth and (Maybe) Makes You Invincible
The Five Best Uses for Coconut Oil You’ve Never Heard Of