I Rearry Rike Charcut

It’s so good and so cool that I get all excited and my chinese accent comes out!

Recently I had the opportunity to have dinner at Charcut Roast House, located on 899 Centre Street SW (in the shadow of the Calgary Tower).  Being the final weekend of Dineout Calgary, we opted to partake in the dinner menu, in addition to sampling a couple of things off the menu.

Charcut has been described as having “urban rustic” cuisine.  While I generally dislike restaurants being described with these generic amalgamating words (like “pan-asian cuisine”), it really describes Charcut’s style quite well.  The restaurant is sleek, stylish and very contemporary, with lots of dark grey with rich wood tables.  However, your eye is drawn to the almost-glowing red panels that highlight the open kitchen where you can see the chefs spitting whole chickens to be roasted in an open rotisserie, slicing house cured charcuterie, or bottling house-made preserves and condiments.  They even have a mason jar chandelier, and what “urban rustic” restaurant would be complete without a mirroring  portrait of two pigs? (or was it bovine?)  As mentioned, they make practically everything in house, and source very local, high-quality ingredients from surrounding like-minded farms and producers.  Do you like house cured pork, lamb, sausage and other charcuterie?  Do you like crispy chicken skin with your salad?  Do you like poutine?  Do you like duck fat poutine?  If you answered yes to all of those questions, then this is the restaurant for you.

We started off with the Albacore Crudo or Shaved Country-Style Lamb Ham.  Luckily, I was able to try both.  The Tuna was supple and soft, beautifully dressed with citrusy olive oil, accompanied with crunchy sliced fennel, and finished with truffle salt – a perfectly executed and a very palate engaging dish.  The lamb had great texture with nice thinness that gave away for each bite. It was also finished with cave-aged gruyere.  The portions on these dishes were quite substantial, with the lamb served on a decent sized wooden board, and the Tuna contaning ~6 pieces.

Next we ordered two extra dishes off the menu.  The first was a gloriously rich duck fat poutine with thick-cut, meaty fries slathered in duck fat gravy with beautiful, stringy curds.  Needless to say, I moved several steps (slow, fat, plodding ones) closer to obesity after this dish, but it was so good.  The best part was the end, where the curds began to stick together as I mopped up some remaining gravy.

Next we tried the roasted bone-marrow au gratin.  While many of you may find it horrendously disgusting to eat bone marrow, I really hope you muster up and try it sometime.  Again, there is no way this is good for you in any shape or form, but the bone marrow (roasted to order, I believe) was so incredibly creamy, buttery, and almost nutty (with that distinct bone marrow taste – it’s hard to describe).  The server called it “meat butter” which isn’t a term I’d use to get first timers to try it but I totally agree and it’s perfectly accurate.  This was served with some crisp brioche crostini, with parsley salad and salt to finish.

The main course was a perfectly crusted smoked, rotisserie Spring Creek prime rib, served with roasted lemon, an entire half bulb of roasted garlic, brassica mustard and arugula.  I had no reservations in slathering on the roasted garlic, and as  result I feared for the lives of anyone who had the misfortune of talking to me the next day.

To finish off I had a delicious BC cherry cheesecake served in a miniature mason jar.  Not only were the ladies swooning over how cute this jar was, but the velvety texture of the cheesecake (no crumbly consistency here) with the deep sweetness of the cherry was the perfect way to end this feast.

Charcut is going to thrive in Calgary not only because we have an insatiable appetite for meat, but because people are starting to look beyond chain restaurants or their usual spots for something a little more unique, honest, decadent and absolutely delicious.  Charcut Roast house was rearry, rearry, dericious.

A Mini Calgary Cafe Crawl

Today, several of us from the cafe went on a short, downtown cafe crawl.  For the uninformed, a cafe crawl is like a pub crawl, but replace alcoholic drinks with coffee, scantily clad women with business suited men, the party bus with human legs, and clubs with cafes.

 

Sounds AWESOME, doesn’t it?

 

Anyways, Calgary’s coffee scene has really blown up over the last couple years, with many ‘3rd wave’ shops now open.  Because of the locations of some of these cafes, I hadn’t been able to get to some, meaning I was eager to go and sample what the city’s new coffee purveyors had to offer.

 

Bright and early, I found myself at  Insomnia Coffee, located in the famous Burns building right next door to the Epcor Center for the Performing Arts.  In my opinion, this is a killer space as it is easily accessible to the morning business crowd, c-train commuters, and evening pre/post Epcor show crowd.  The space is clean, classy and deliberate.  The coffee… to be honest, it left something to be desired.  Unfortunately, all their cup sizes have not yet arrived, and as such, cappuccinos and macchiatos are served in 8 oz ACFs.  The coffee is supplied by Fratello, and while I cannot comment on on their brewed coffee (which I believe is done via French Press), I’m most certain the espresso is Joel May’s 2008 competition blend.  The reason I say it left something to be desired was that the espresso had several positive elements that I think were overshadowed by several negative aspects.  I think with a little more dialing on their LaMarzocco GB5, the espresso pulled could be pretty tasty.  I was getting notes of berries, spice, caramel and dark chocolate, which made for a potentially interesting shot, even amidst some of the negatives.  Unfortunately, several complaints across the table dealt with the milk quality as well.  Hopefully we caught them on a bad day and this was just an anomaly.

IMG_4614

 

Next, we headed down to DeVille located upstairs in Art Central.  DeVille, an Intelligentsia account, also serves Saint German pastries and food, as well as a small wine and beer selection.  This cafe has stunning whites, reds and blacks coating the furniture of their contemporary, edgy cafe design.  This cafe (2009 Krups Kup of Excellence winner) serves up Black Cat ‘spro on its Synesso/Anfirm/Robur combo.  Espressos, macchiatos, and cappuccinos were ordered by us all, in addition to some snacks.  The espresso was an improvement over Insomniac’s.

IMG_4615

Where the major disappointment came was in the food ordered.  Personally, I had ordered an aged cheddar,Dijon, egg and bacon breakfast sandwich, and Mike had a blueberry / white chocolate scone.  Before I even sat down, the sandwich had finished heating and was brought to me wrapped in white food/wax paper, on a white plate. Being perfectly honest, the sandwich was only marginally better than a mcmuffin at the golden arches (and sure reminded me of one).  At $3.50, this is no bank breaker, but I expected slightly more deliberate food from a Saint German kitchen.  Mike’s scone also tasted slightly doughy and almost undercooked as well.  Again, I hope that this was just an anomaly, and we had caught DeVille on a bad day.  (Unfortunately, I had a papery dry lemon loaf at the other location months previous.)  They do serve up a mean shortbread, though, and I’ve heard that their alcoholic offerings and snacks are great value and quality.

*

Overall, this mornings crawl…left something to be desired.  I think it’s great that these new shops have popped up and have started to show the masses that coffee does not have to be mundane, tim hortons quality swill.  However, I think what some shops are doing is being really great supporters of quality coffee, yet not living up to their standards when executing.  If you are championing quality coffee with premium prices, why settle for average drink quality coming off the bar?  I think this is a dilemma that many 3rd Wave shops are dealing with, including ours.  Opening a shop with premium coffee, equipment and design does not equal a premium product!  I think today was a great reminder to all that it all comes down to the drink quality we hand out over the counter – we should only be satisfied with giving a customer a drink that we have tried our utmost best (considering the situation) to produce.  If not, we aren’t doing coffee a favor.  People may start wondering why they are paying higher prices for a product that is only marginally better than a much cheaper, widely available alternative.  I also think what may be missing in this equation is passion.  I think there is a difference between a barista-opened shop, and any other shop.  If there is a pure passion for the product, there is inherently more care…and you can just ‘feel’ it and definitely taste it in the drink.  Thoughts?

I understand there is a consideration for feasibility, and by no means does this post harbor critisizing opinions, just some personal thoughts inspired by today’s experiences.  I’d like to see more pure, barista opened cafe’s that are driven to push the envelope, not just ride the 3rd wave to economic success.  It’s great what’s happening in Calgary and one can only hope that new shops will start springing up to elevate the way coffee is seen in this city.

 

 

*we also may or may not have gone to another shop in which I may or may not comment.IMG_4618

 

Why I love McD’s

 
As I sit here, sipping my mediocre coffee that I horribly regret buying, I can’t help but feel shocked by Jer’s post about McD’s.  I love McD’s.  I love McD’s on so many levels.

*In junior high english, I was taught to begin my essay with my strongest point (and sorry for all the readers but I still function at a junior high level english). *

1) Coffee and Muffin Combo (my strongest point)

Right now in Calgary, and I hope for all your benefit, the rest of Canada there is a coffee muffin combo on the super value menu. You get both for $1.39. That’s ridiculously good! 

The coffee at McD’s has improved superbly over the last couple of years. I’m not talking about the McCafe’s that we see poppin’ up in different parts of the world, but I’m talking about the ol’ fashioned, North American drip coffee. [100% arabica beans now] I’ve got to say hands down that coffee at McD’s is the only time I don’t feel like a retard for spending money at coffee at a huge chain. 

Tim Horton’s – diluted, bitter AND sour, unsatisfying

Second Cup – See above but also add, expensive

Charbucks – taken strictly from the name, is charred

Good stuff! :)

Now coffee at McD’s, is not that bad for the price tage of $1.37. It isn’t that dilute, comes with free refills, not that bitter. Wait mike?!?! I thought you said it was a $1.39 coffee and muffin combo!

Yes. It is. The best part of my visit to Maccas is that on the receipt, it goes like this:

Coffee $1.37

Muffin $0.02

Total $1.39

I’m not and owner of an MBA but I know that this is a bargain. 

I said I’d start off with my strongest point. Well, this point is so strong that it doesn’t need any back up. (kinda like Chuck Norris)

Super value menu is awesome. You only get that ridiculousness here in North America so I suggest you take full advantage of it.

Insta-Charbucks

Check out this link, brought to my attention by my friend, Jason.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/02/12/financial/f150640S34.DTL

As if Starbucks wasn’t any more accessible, they have now announced that they will be releasing a patent-pending instant coffee with hopes of increasing revenue in the economic decline.  The instant coffee will 

“Absolutely replicate the taste of Starbucks coffee in an instant form” – Vivek Varma, Starbucks spokesperson.

A few thoughts on this:  I have no doubt in my mind that they will be able to replicate the signature Charbucks taste.  That’s not very difficult.  Licking the underside of a public toilet seat has a very similar flavor profile – complex, rich, earthy, and sometimes savoury.  But what boggles my mind is that it has taken 20 years to “perfect” this technology.  20 years to hone a technology to replicate a mediocre flavor seems counter-productive.  I also think this is probably something that has come out of necessity, rather than vision, due to the financial hit Starbucks has taken over the last couple years.  They are further propagating the ‘commodity’ image of coffee, rather than elevate it.  However, I do see that there are some silver-linings out of this.  I suppose you could commend Starbucks for introducing a ‘higher-quality’ product in the instant coffee market, (hopefully) including coffees that are sourced with some sort of decent, ethical, quality focus.  And I suppose my viewpoint is one from a barista working in a small, independent, extremely quality-driven cafe, which is obviously an entirely different world than the Starbucks conglomerate.  But for a company who I thought was trying to revitalize their image as a quality-focused entity, buying out Clover, introducing more ‘barista’ centered cafes etc., this move seems to dilute their image, and pull the company in a different direction.  

Also, the line at the end of the article  mentioned a possible introduction of value meal-like ‘breakfast pairings’ for a nickel under $4.  Great.  As if the caramel “macchiato” wasn’t a glutinous feast by itself already, now I can get a side of cake to start my day off.  Maybe we’ll get to “starbucks-size it” too – for $1 more you can upgrade your latte into the half gallon bucket size.  And why buy Insta-Charbucks when you can make it at home just as easily?  Here’s my recipe for instant coffee that “absolutely replicates the taste of Starbucks coffee”:

 

If I was a coffee cup, I'd do the same

If I was a coffee cup, I'd do the same

 

 

Jer’s Charbucks Delight Caramel Instanttiatto, Patent-Pending, ®©℠™

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Soil

Directions:

  1. Boil water.
  2. Add to soil.
  3. Schedule Press-Release.
  4. Introduce fried chicken at select cafe’s.
  5. Profit

Word of mouth

So it’s been a while since I have written so this may blow, but I’ll try my best to make this post …dope.

 

So this post was originally going to be about an eating experience I just had that I thought was fantastic. But then I didn’t want to sound like a douchebag who didn’t know what he was talking about so it lead to this post. Often times, especially when it comes to food, people are lead to places according to wha
t the word on the street is. Recently I went to a restaurant near my house that had a semi-bad rep. If you follow online resources such as chowhounds, you would never go to the place that I ate at. Chowhounds states that it is overpriced, appetizers come cold, bland pastas etc. 

word_of_mouth3

I was fortunate enough to sample a bunch of foods because whenever I go with a large group of people I can’t help but snack on everyone’s dishes. This (in my mind) gives me the ability to give a more accurate review of the resto. Soups were overpriced. If it weren’t for the price tag the mushroom taragon soup would have been a home run. I also sampled a bunch of the appetizers and found them to be quite decent.
I mean again, could be a bit overpriced but the potstickers were amazing. I don’t know where the name potstickers came from, but I mean, these were the first ones I’ve had that were actually kinda sticky! AMAZING!
My main was essentially a surf and turf. I asked for medium rare…and I was SHOCKED to find my steak was…..*gasp* medium rare! LOL it was probably the first time in a long time that my order was correct. The steak was topped off with lobster meat in a rich…..and THICK hollandaise sauce. Anyways, it was good. The veggies that came with it was a bit lacklustre but a good compliment. Dessert was a molten cake, that was bombin’. The theme throughout the day seemed to be details. The appies had nice garnishes. The desserts had wicked little things that fancified the experience.
Overall I’d say that it was pricey but not overpriced. I’d rather pay a little extra for a good experience instead of bombin’ out 25+ bucks for a charbucks steak at the keg. 
To sum up, sometimes other people don’t know jack shiz. You need to find some foodies that you know personally and trust. Maybe not trust but have similar tastes as you. My brother ended up ordering the duck at this place because it was suggested by a friend. It was by far the dish the blew the most that night. Word of mouth? Could be a whole whack of shiz. Depends who’s mouth it comes out of. 
Anyways. Don’t be scared to try something new, I’d hate to stick to the same restos ALL the time. But that been said, be careful of where you venture off to, you may get burned like a steak from the keg.