PAMPA’S SECOND ANNUAL BACON FEAST

Edmonton, for some reason, has become bacon crazy in the last couple of years.

Did I just say, “for some reason”? The obvious reason: bacon is THAT delicious. What with Baconfest, an influx of bacon-inspired cocktails (think Caesars), and more and more restaurants offering items like pork belly and pulled pork on the menu, food options throughout our city can get a little pig-heavy. Even Sailin’ On has a vegan BLT–it’s coconut, but you get the idea.

Pampa, my beloved Pampa, has joined the bacon ranks with their annual Bacon Feast event. The restaurant, which normally serves up cuts of meat rodizio-style (i.e. rotisserie that’s carved tableside), is offering a bacon-inspired special for the month of April. Alongside their usual dinner service, guests can add on the Bacon Feast menu for $14.95, which includes bacon-wrapped boneless veal leg, marinated crispy pork belly (my favourite), and a chocolate petite gateau for dessert (warm chocolate cake filled with bacon-infused caramel sauce and topped with vanilla-bean ice cream and caramelized bacon bits). Bacon Caesars are also on special for $10, each one featuring Bakon Vodka and a slice of bacon–although be sure to eat that bacon strip immediately before it gets soggy.

This is Bacon Feast’s second year and, from my experience, offers a nice variant to the traditional Pampa dining experience. The inclusion of dessert is a huge selling point–even though I couldn’t eat it because of the gluten, I had a nibble at the bacon bits and ice cream, and everyone else at the table seemed to devour their cakes with reckless abandon. Bacon Feast is also a good reason to go out and try Pampa’s pork belly, which I raved about in my review of their brunch. Like I said, it’s not for those who are afraid of fat on their meat (again, I’m surprised those people exist).

My dinner plate. Note: the roasted whole garlic is AMAZING.

The bacon-wrapped veal leg was tender and cooked to medium–this was my first time trying veal, so it was a little unusual for me, but it was filled with flavour. And, of course, anything wrapped in bacon is a good thing. Other than the Bacon Feast offerings, there were the standard ten cuts of meat for Pampa’s dinner service: signature rump steak, top sirloin, bottom sirloin, striploin (which we unfortunately didn’t get to try), pork sausage, parmesan pork loin, bacon-wrapped chicken thighs, marinated Frenched chicken legs, marinated leg of lamb, and garlic rump steak. I go to Pampa for the beef cuts because I’m a huge fan of how they’re cooked: seasoned with rock salt and fired over a charcoal grill. The rump steak will always be my favourite–I think I had three servings of it during this dinner.

Cold salad bar

Marinated pork belly (image from brunch)

There’s also Pampa’s endless cold salad bar which, as always, is great…but be careful not to fill up on pasta salad. You’re better off saving that room for more meat!

Image courtesy of Pampa

Along with Bacon Feast, there are other exciting new things happening at Pampa. The restaurant is starting to offer spring and summer Brazilian cooking classes, which is a really neat idea for a date night or friend date. They’ll teach you to prepare and grill Brazilian-style BBQ using hardwood charcoal, how to make meat-stuffed bread, and how to cook Brazil’s national dish, the Feijoada–a stew of black beans with beef and pork. The Churrasco Master cooking class includes three hours of demonstration and hands-on instruction, lunch, a Pampa apron, a recipe booklet, and a tropical guava cheesecake for dessert. I believe they’ll also be teaching people how to make the delicious (and gluten-free) cheese bread that Pampa serves complimentary with every meal!

Cooking classes take place from April to July and only eight students are permitted per class. Cost is $119 per person, with GST included. Find more information here or register for a class by calling (780) 756-7030.

If you’d rather have someone else do your Brazilian cooking for you, head to Pampa and check out Bacon Feast before the end of April! Find more information on the event here or book a table online here.

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse
9929 109 St
Edmonton, AB
(780) 756-7030

Brunch at Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse

If I’m going to be honest with myself, whenever people ask me about my favourite restaurant in Edmonton (which they do a lot, since it comes with the food blogger territory), I always say Pampa. I’m not sure if it’s due to my weakness for savoury red meat or my fondness for dining experiences that allow me to eat myself into a coma. Either way, Pampa is always top of mind when recommending restaurants to my carnivorous friends.

I recently had the pleasure of trying Sunday brunch at Pampa for the very first time. We had gone to the restaurant for the Downtown Dining Week special, which unfortunately wasn’t offered on Sundays, but we ended up staying for brunch instead (which offered a greater meat selection, anyway).

All about that rump

Salad bar offerings

A brunch dining experience at Pampa is almost identical to a dinner service, although at a more reasonable price–$29.95 per person, rather than the usual $49.95 for the full dinner. Brunch runs from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every Sunday, with the regular all-you-can-eat salad bar and five cuts of meat: signature rump steak, top sirloin, chicken drumsticks, pork belly, and pork sausage.

For those of you who have never tasted the delights of Pampa, meal service is run in a Rodizio style–you help yourself to the cold salad bar, sit back down at your table, flip your little card over to green, and wait as gauchos with sizzling meat on rotisserie sticks swing by and offer you a variety of options. They slice the meat from the rotisserie for you right at the table, never giving too much (so that you have room to try everything), but always being generous if you favour a particular cut. It’s indulgent and delightfully salty, thanks to the beautiful rock salt they use to season their meats.

Salad bar offerings

A nice selection of cheese and greens

Salad bar offerings

A great addition to the meat roster was the pork belly. Not for those who don’t like fat on their meat (if those people actually exist), the pork belly was tender, juicy, and covered with a small portion of delicious crackling, adding a nice crunch to the overall texture. These pieces weren’t served on a rotisserie stick but rather on a plate and with a slice of lime.

My favourite, as always, was the rump steak. Ever since they took ribeye off the menu–which was based very much, I’m sure, on the high cost of that cut–rump steak has been my welcome alternative. While the top sirloin is still tasty, it has a tendency to run a bit dry, whereas the rump steak is consistently juicy and flavourful.

Pork belly and lime

Try the ceviche–trust me

Local oils and balsamics from Evoolution

The salad bar offerings are not to be sneezed at, either. My favourites include the whole roasted garlic, sliced pineapple and capicola, a great selection of olives and imported/domestic cheese, and the ceviche (fish marinated in citrus juices). Of course, all of these delicacies are nothing without the accompaniment of a big glass of red wine–thankfully, wine is also 10% off on Sundays and sangria and mimosas are only $7 a glass.

As always, the service was top notch. I’ve never had bad (or even neutral) service at Pampa–each server comes to your table with a wealth of menu and drink knowledge and each Rodizio gaucho is supremely accommodating with their meat. If you’re looking for a particular cut and simply mention it to them, they’ll send it over as soon as possible. It’s perfect–service at Pampa is a well-oiled machine. And, when you’re filled to the brim with meat, you flip over your card to the red side and your server will bring by a visual demo tray of their many desserts (all of which are fantastic, by the way).

Cheesy goodness

If you’re new to the Rodizio experience and aren’t sure if you’ll enjoy it, I strongly recommend trying Pampa for lunch or Sunday brunch so that you get a taste of the experience without paying the full dinner price. The cost of the full dinner is a fairly significant deterrent for many people, so trying the restaurant for lunch or brunch is a good way to dine at Pampa without making the full cost commitment. There’s a parking lot underground that you can reach from the back alley and which offers free parking for restaurant guests (but I believe this is only on weekdays and after 6pm). Personally, I try to get to Pampa at least once every few months for my Rodizio fix. I simply can’t get enough of that rump.

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse
9929 109 St
Edmonton, AB
780-756-7030
Make reservations online

5/5

LOBSTER SUMMER AT THE KEG

Seafood. Steak. Wine. Few things give me greater pleasure, especially when I have access to all three at once. Which is why the Lobster Summer tasting event at The Keg was such a pleasant (and mouth-watering) experience.

On July 16th, I attended an event at South Edmonton Common that showcased The Keg’s Lobster Summer promotion, a 15-year annual tradition that features dishes made from Canadian hard-shell, full-meat lobsters shipped over from the North Atlantic. Owen Abrams, The Keg South Common’s General Manager, informed us that the restaurant brings in Atlantic lobsters every summer and humanely kills them as they’re used.

Alongside communications partner Kwittken, The Keg’s event brought together food bloggers and local foodies to taste this year’s selection of seafood dishes, including a number of new starter and casual plate options.

“We’ve added a few dishes to adjust to the rising prices of seafood,” said Owen. “We’ve added some lighter seafood fare, which is more casual and at a lower price point so that everyone can enjoy it.”

We started the evening with the Szechwan Lobster—golden fried lobster and shrimp with a mix of chilli peppers, red peppers, and asparagus, all tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce.

Szechwan Lobster

For the gluten intolerant (a.k.a. me), the starter was a Shrimp Cocktail with chilled black tiger shrimp and a martini cocktail sauce made with olives and gin—two of my favourite things. The tiger shrimp were gigantic: a perfect starter for one person or to share. These dishes were paired with a glass of Knotted Vines Chardonnay, Viognier and Riesling from British Columbia—the medium sweetness and light aftertaste of this wine went really well with the Shrimp Cocktail.

Shrimp Cocktail

Two of the Lobster Summer menu’s new casual plates, the Crispy Lobster Tacos and the Lobster Roll, were brought out. I was unable to taste either, but the consensus at the table was that the Lobster Tacos were a nice light dish, while the Lobster Roll had generous helpings of lobster and shrimp to match the heaviness of the brioche roll.

Lobster Roll

Instead, I was given a plate of the Scallops and Bacon, another favourite of mine. The scallops were cooked perfectly and I enjoyed them with a glass of Veramonte “Ritual” Pinot Noir from Chile–a lighter red wine that paired perfectly with the delicate scallops.

Scallops and Bacon

We were all fairly full to bursting by this point, so being presented with a huge plate covered in a 6oz sirloin steak, half a lobster, and grilled mushrooms was almost laughable. I gave it my best effort but, despite the tender medium-rare steak and buttery sautéed mushrooms, I was only able to eat the half lobster.

Steak and Half Lobster (Image courtesy of The Keg Steakhouse + Bar)

To be fair, our meals were also accompanied by a 1lb lobster tail (we had one per two people at the table), so I’m sure you can understand why I was in a food coma by this point. Finish that dining experience off with a glass of J. Lohr Estates “Riverstone” Chardonnay from California and I’d say that Lobster Summer was a complete success.

In all honesty, I’ve always been much more a fan of crab than lobster, but this event and these dishes turned my opinion around completely. The half lobster was lovely, but the 1lb lobster tail was the centrepiece of the entire event. It was huge—as well it should be, at $40 per tail—and pieces dipped in the ramekin of butter would melt in your mouth. A superb example of lobster at its finest.

I was very impressed by The Keg’s Lobster Summer menu and also very appreciative of their diligence in accommodating my gluten intolerance. Owen spoke to me before and during the meal to ensure that everything was suitable—and it was. More than suitable, in fact.

I’ll definitely be returning to The Keg to enjoy items from the Lobster Summer menu before it ends on August 30th. If you’re having a special occasion dinner or simply want to treat yourself, I strongly recommend adding the 1lb lobster tail to your meal. You won’t regret it.

The Keg Steakhouse + Bar (South Edmonton Common)
1631 102 Street
Edmonton, AB T6N 1M3
(780) 485-6530
@TheKeg

Cover photo courtesy of The Keg Steakhouse + Bar

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