Category Archives: soup

Will That be Paper, Plastic or Compostable?

Atco Cafe 7

At Calgary’s ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Cafe, the soup is served in a compostable bowl

A recent little trend I’ve noticed in Calgary eateries is the use of compostable dishes and utensils, in place of the usual ceramic and metal.

It’s most noticeable at the gorgeous ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Cafe, where my soup is served in a container made of renewable plant materials—post-consumer paper fibre from sugarcane and a polyethylene, corn-based lining known as Ingeo.

At Grumans Deli (Britannia location), there’s a prominent sign explaining why all its food and drinks is served on compostable “packaging”. “Grumans cares about the environment,” the sign says. Though when I ask why they’ve gone this route, servers at both places just mention the lack of space for electric dishwashers; there’s obviously also labour, equipment and hot-water cost savings from not having to wash dishes.

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I’m not sure how I feel about this trend. On the one hand, it’s good that such establishments are promoting environmental responsibility and not simply throwing dishes in the trash, destined for landfills. And it’s much better to be packing leftovers or takeout in paper boxes than in Styrofoam containers, which might take hundreds of years to break down.

Mind you, it’s best to dispose of these compostable dishes in the restaurants’ compost bins, because for some reason the City of Calgary’s composting pick-up program doesn’t allow compostable cups and dishes in its green bins.

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I don’t know about you, but I can never figure out what waste goes where. Hint: the soup bowl (above) goes in the left bin

On the other hand, compostable dishes are still single use, even if they end up as soil. I haven’t seen a good study arguing the environmental footprint merits of one-use compostable dishes versus washing regular dishes innumerable times, though me thinks the latter would win that debate.

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Compostable utensils et al at Calgary coffee shop Sought & Found

And there’s simply the aesthetics. Eating soup with a plastic spoon out of a “paper” bowl is just not as pleasing as porcelain. And while you can, and should, use your own travel mug at coffee shops that just offer plastic-lined paper cups, I don’t think we’ve reached the point of bringing our own washable dishes and utensils to our favourite eateries. By the way, Berkeley, California has just passed a regulation charging consumers 25 cents for every disposable cup they get at a coffee shop.

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Soup lid at ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Cafe

Even the restaurants that have embraced compostable dishes might agree with my aesthetic sentiments. After all, on the websites of the above-mentioned joints, the photos show food and drink served in regular, washable plates, bowls and cups.

Your thoughts?

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L.A. Korean Noodle House is Stellar

At LA's Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo, this boatload of clams and hand-cut noodles knocks it out of the park

At LA’s Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo, this boatload of clams and hand-cut noodles knocks it out of the park

It takes me a few minutes of wandering to find Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo in Los Angeles. It’s buried at the back of a Koreatown strip mall containing some 10 businesses, not all with English subtitles. The name on the sign is also somewhat different than advertised: Hhang Ari Noodle House.

What should be the real giveaway is the line outside the door. Normally, waiting and I don’t mix. But I’ve got time to kill, a shady seat out of the oppressive L.A. heat and a willingness to try Korean dishes that aren’t barbecue or bulgogi.

I might be the only tourist in the joint

I might be the only tourist in the joint

The nice thing about most Korean restaurants is you don’t have to order appetizers; they automatically come with the mains, which in my case is a massive lunch for less than $10. At Hangari, er Hhang Ari, four or five little bowls appear just after I sit down. I can’t tell you what they are other than marinated, astringent and crunchy. Good, mind you.

All these appetizers come with the meal. Though the main course is a plentiful meal by itself

All these appetizers come with the meal. Though the main course is a plentiful meal by itself

I’m halfway through this small meal when my order of Manilla clam kalguksu arrives. It’s a steaming bathtub of goodies: a delicate broth, loads of little clams, surprising crescents of squash and a few slices of cooked potatoes emerging from the tangled depths.

But the real star here is a boatload of long, engorged, chewy noodles, fashioned and hand cut by the woman who owns the place but never leaves the kitchen while I’m there. Even when I finally ignore all else, I can’t finish this bounty of fabulous noodles.

Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo (I think that’s the name)
3470 West 6 Street, Suite 9, Los Angeles
Daily 10:30 am-10:30 pm
213-388-2326