13 November, 2013

Hit!...And A Miss...

If I had a loonie for every time I heard the word "soul" in reference to food in this town, I'd be a rich woman.  On this occasion though, it wasn't in reference to the style of the food I was eating, it was more about the concept.  Good, unprocessed, in-house made food...now that is food that TRULY feeds the soul without robbing your body of anything in the process.  That's a lunch for me!  Great thing I stumbled across AlphaSoul Cafe and added it to my "to eat" list last year...

The weather is changing here in Ottawa...when the air becomes chill and the wind starts to snap, I am always on the lookout for comfort food.  TO me this is warms soups, hearty sandwiches, and pretty much everything my Momma might have on the table between September and March.  Lucky for my Mister and me, AlphaSoul Cafe has plenty warm soups, hearty sandwiches, and MORE on their menu for us to choose from.

When you walk in Alpha's vibe is in the air.  You can smell the food being made in the back, breathe in the flower pots wafting into the front door, and the mellow yellow walls inside inviting you to grab a chair and stay a while.

I loved everything about this place.  Even the menus...the above photo with the stack of books, yeah...THOSE are their menus!

Love it!

I love the wall art in this place as well.  It is hard to imagine that anything could make it MORE fun to eat here, but then you find out they have live Jazz music every Friday night, Psychic night the first 3 Thursdays, Joshua Earth Band the last Saturday of every month, and Indie Night every third Saturday of the month...  What a line up!

I didn't waste any time I knew I wanted a lot of food and I knew I wanted it to pack a punch in every bite.  I was leaning towards the very thing our server recommended....Spicy Ham & Gouda.  We were both pretty famished so the Mister ordered a nice appetizer off of their summer seasonal menu; Artichoke Dip.  The Mister ordered a nice crock of French Onion Soup for his main, and just to bring it all together we asked for a ordered a Caramel Pecan Brownie for dessert to share.  Shortly after we had a prayer for our food the appetizer made its way to the table.

Artichoke Dip w/ Fresh Pita Chips
I watched my Mister's face when he took his initial bite...  It worried me.  I asked him what was wrong as I was grabbing a pita chip and dipping it in myself...  He said, "It's cold...", and contorted his face a bit.  By this time I was shoving my chip into my mouth and sure enough...it was cold.  So cold that you know, this is how it was mean to be.  It wasn't like they made it and let it sit so long it GOT cold, it started OUT that way.  I've never had that before.  I have also never had a straight up,unadulterated artichoke dip that didn't have something else in it; spinach, cheese, red pepper....somethin', just something else to help the artichoke out.  I won't say I hated this dip, but I wouldn't order it again.  It just isn't my bag.  But...for a seasonal summer menu item it makes total sense.  Fresh artichokes in a nice, cool dip on a warm day...if you are in love with artichokes, this would be the way to go.  When we ran out of chips our server asked us if we wanted more chips to finish the dip, but we declined.  But, I think it is a testament to the abundance they offer there.  Run out of chips...we'll give you more for free.  Who wouldn't love that?  So, even though I personally wouldn't order this again, it doesn't have anything to do with food quality, it was just the vision.  But, I didn't have too much time to dwell on it...my sandwich and his soup were ready.

Spicy Ham & Gouda

I should tell you straight off...their ham is made in-house, their bread is made in-house, and it really shows off some great skill.  But, that is what confused me about the culmination of the sandwich itself.  It is the in-house made bread, in-house ham, smoked gouda, tomato, hot banana peppers, horseradish, honey mustard, and arugula.  Anyone notice anything about that sentence...?  Bread, ham, cheese, wet, wet, wet, wet...arugula.  Right.  As you can imagine, this sandwich was quite the drippy mess to eat.  I let my server know, and she apologized but...I don't understand how someone who could dream that perfect combo up couldn't look ahead to the plate and see how it would make the sandwich quite the mess to tackle.  I get super annoyed when my plate wears more flavor than the food does...  Had I been in the kitchen dreaming up this combo I would have pulverized the hot banana peppers and allowed them to drain off the excess juice a bit, then add those peppers and the horseradish to the honey mustard (I would have made sure my honey mustard was grain mustard as well...), making one sauce out of all of it.  It would have accomplished the same flavor profile and it would have saved the beautiful bread that they went to the trouble to make.  The sandwich flavor was absolute dynamite!  I LOVE spice and heat in my food and this sandwich hit every note...sweet, sour, heat, and salt.  I just wish my bread hadn't turned into a puddle.  I let my Mister finish the sandwich while I went after his soup for a while.

Four Cheese French Onion Soup

This was a pretty awesome crock of soup.  I didn't get any of the bread or any of the cheese by the time I got to try his soup.  I typically don't comment on food that I didn't order for myself but this soup deserves to have its praises sung.  All of the cheeses gave distinct salt and creaminess to the soup and paired against the chardonnay and fresh herbs...I was really wishing I had ordered this myself.  Live and learn...live and learn...  I knew there was dessert coming so I yielded the spoon back to my man and let the anticipation well up for the next course.

Caramel Pecan Brownie

I wish that I could tell you that I loved this brownie, but I didn't.  It wasn't really a "brownie".  It was halfway there though...  The texture was half way between a cake and a brownie, and there is no other way to explain it.  It wasn't fudgy and the "brownie" to nut ratio was crazy...  There were WAY too many pecans goin' on in this sucker.  If you know me....you'll be surprised to hear me say that.  I ALWAYS add nuts to things and usually, pecans.  Pecans are my favorite nut.  But I honestly couldn't handle it and I let the Mister finish it.  The caramel was house made and the only thing on this plate that I ate with any sort of zeal.  There wasn't much of the sauce in comparison to the brownie...and the level of chocolate richness just wasn't there with what I am used to.  This dessert fell flat for me and ALMOST made me wish I had ordered a cookie instead, and cookies are my least favorite dessert on the planet.  Ouchies Alpha...you cut me to the quick.  

Would I eat here again?  Absolutely!  I know I don't hit a home run with EVERY single thing I whip up in my kitchen.  Their concept of fresh and in-house made is something I believe is vital to a good business model in restaurant cooking.  I just wished their execution of these ideas had turned out better.  I know I have a brownie recipe they could borrow if they want to take their desserts up a notch but...the soup was perfect and the concept of the spicy ham & gouda was very intelligent.  Price points on the soup and sandwich were perfect but, 5 loonies for a "brownie" that just didn't quite make it to "brownie" texture was a big stretch for me.  Even with my all organic ingredients (Wholesome Sweeteners sugars, Green & Black's chocolate, Neilsson Massey extracts, King Arthur Flours, organic free range brown eggs, etc.), 5 loonies would be a stretch.  That would have to be a damn good brownie.  Alpha's wasn't.

While we were sitting there initially we saw quite a few folks come in and leave with little brown bags.  AlphaSoul has a great, faithful customer base that can't be denied.  They know what they are doing when it comes to sandwiches and soups, so give them a whirl the next time you are down in Wellington West for lunch.  Or better yet...hit them up on a Friday night and chill to some Jazz while you nosh on your sandwich!  Either way, you'll have a lovely, relaxing experience.  The Sweet Pea even had a good time!

AlphaSoul Cafe on Urbanspoon

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