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.

Go Fish!

Being from the land locked cit of Calgary, fresh seafood is not really in great abundance, as compared to other cities such as Vancouver.  As a result, one has to look LONG and HARD (insert immature laugh here) for places that have brought in great product.  On top of that, one has to narrow these places down to restaurants / cafe’s that actually prepare this seafood in a proper way.  Lots of delicious, fresh fish can be turned into armageddon-aftermath-like dishes with a skillful FLICK of an incompetent chef’s WRIST (insert immature laugh here).  You may think it’s actually hard to screw up such amazing starting ingredients, and I would tend to agree with you.  This is why I think it’s a skill to be so incompetent, or competently incompetent.  Now that I think of it, this is a great analogy for coffee.  How often do we see cafe’s with the best equipment and great coffee, pump out semi-decent espresso’s and brewed coffee?  What a waste!  BUT I DIGRESS…

One great example of a dish that is often ruined is Fish and Chips, or Fish n’ Chips, or Fish & Chips, or Poisson et Frites, or Poisson n’ Frites, or Poisson & Fri… you get the idea.  This is a dish that is everywhere in Calgary…yes, that’s right, Fish and Chips has amassed a massive marketshare in the monotonous mixed markets of mediocrity (how’s that for alliteration).  This is a dish that has so much potential yet is ruined too easy.  How many times have we had these where the waiter brings out a white platter of greasy, oil soaked, stinky, dry fish with the texture of 1 part butter : 30000 parts sand?  Oh yeah, and the fries… Oh the Fries!  It seems like Mr. Mcain special delivered those matchsticks of repulsiveness right to your doorstep.  Don’t forget the TARTAR sauce which is the bastard love child of Mr. Hellmans and Ms. Heinz-Relish (she was an academic and wanted to retain her maiden name for 1st author publication recognition purposes).  While this post is getting out of hand and the last paragraph literally made no sense whatsoever, the point I’m trying to make is that we are in FISH AND CHIPS DEFICIENCY here in Calgary.  So what’s the answer?

VANCOUVER.  And what an answer it is!  In my last trip to Vancouver, I stopped by the shack that has given me the best Fish and Chips I have ever had.  Go Fish is located on the Fisherman’s Warf just across from Granville Island.  It’s a tiny shack with room for maybe 5 employees or so, slaving over hot fryers of oil and pans sizzling away on a range.  P1020594You start by lining up… there is never no line.  I bet the first person that goes there once they open stands in line, too.  While you are in line and starting to fantasize about the orgasmic fish you are about to consume, you peruse a menu being passed along the line like a game of telephone to see which fish is going to bring you to pleasure island.  Because I am such a manly man, I went with Halibut.  Studies have shown that there is a direct proportional relationship with those that have a Halibut preference to their respective manlymanliness characteristic.  My other companions chose Cod and Halibut respectively.  After engaging in the act of a transaction, we grabbed some seats with tables ( a rarity due to the amounts of people eating there ) and waited.  Do not expect it to be fast…the people working are cooking as quickly as they can, but due to the sheer amount of orders, your fish will take time.  To me this signals that your order is being made FRESH…this is important, remember?  Oh yeah, I wanted to say that Go Fish is literally on the docks of the wharf… I’m quite certain that the fish is caught and walked up the plank to the shack where it is thrown into the fryer.  I think the fresher the seafood, the less middlemen there are.  Anyways, after finally hearing our names called, we sat down to our bounty…

P1020596

Besides the really cool dim sum steamer basket they serve these in, my two pieces of Halibut perfection was accompanied by an Everest sized mound of frites, a home-made coleslaw, and some tartar sauce.  Let me describe to you how good this fish was… Sinking your teeth into the succulent portion of fish, you’re first met with buttery crunch of the perfectly-fried batter.  The batter is not paper thin by any means, it is maybe a millimeter thick.  But it adds an amazing crispiness accompanied by a richness that makes this fish and chips almost decadent.  After the beautiful batter gives way, you are not met with air or bubbles (as is the case with other poorly made dishes)…no, no, no, you are met with juicy, creamy, thick slabs of FRESH HALIBUT.  Absolutely succulent fish that melts in your mouth like pudding.  Halibut is gorgeously dense yet has such a buttery mouthfeel… all of this wrapped up with the rich crunch of the perfect coating of batter – tell me this is not making your mouth DROOL (aka. producing salivary alpha amlyase).  The tartar sauce was great, there was sweet notes of fresh dill that really set it apart from other commercial tartar sauces, which addeed a cooling, sweet accompaniment to the fish.  The fries were freshly cut, and were slightly thicker than McDonald’s fries, yet were crisper, softer on the inside, and fresher tasting.  The coleslaw was tasty as well, with julienned cabbage and carrots mixed with a sesame-based vinaigrette.  The coleslaw tasted light and refreshing, a stark contrast to the goopy, gelatinous messes that are sold in supermarkets everywhere.  Needless to say, after a massive meal like this, I developed an acute case of Itis and had to be remedied by an espresso from JJ Bean in Granville.

Go Fish is definitely one place for amazing Fish and Chips, in an awesome location… I think it is reason enough to make the trek from landlocked Calgary to Vancouver!

Asian People #2: You gotta eat your worth

I alluded to this topic in my last Asian People post. To elaborate on the topic I will use the ultimate example. Let me set the scene.

The Buffet

(also known as the All-U-Can-Eat, or the Smorgasboard)

[after an hour and a half long eat-fest the main characters reflect on what just transpired]

A: That was good. It was really cheap too!

B: Man I could have eaten more but I ate a piece of toast this morning, I think that threw me off.

A: Damn, that sucks. I didn’t eat anything all day today to prepare for this eat-fest.

B: I should have done that too. Oh well, I think I ate my $12.95 though.

Step 1: Identify "money" items

Step 1: Identify "money" items

 

 

This is the model example because the topic is grasped most easily here. The way asian people equate money to food often times gets in the way of enjoying the food … but who cares. The need to “get the most” out of a situation exists inherently in our genetic code. We must find the best deals that exist. Now there are certain ways to get the most out of a situation. 

1. Don’t eat anything before going to a buffet. 

– this is pretty self-explanatory because eating anything beforehand means you will be eating less able to eat –> less bang for buck (B4B)

2. Don’t eat the items that are not “money” items

– this means stay away from salad, soup, veggies etc.

3. Do eat the “money” items

– instead of roast beef with mashed potatoes, go roast beef with a side of roast beef; or if at a seafood buffet, “double money” items rank higher than “money” items

4. Do eat until you vomit

– and then eat some more, if you don’t eat some more then change Do eat until you vomit to Don’t eat until you vomit

I’d like to stress point 3. It may take a little more time and effort but this will definitely give you your best B4B. Let’s say there’s a seafood medly of scallops, clams, shrimp, and fish. Pick out items in the following hierarchy: Clams/Scallops –> Shrimp –> fish. This is the succession of “money” items.  Feel free to stop anywhere along this succession. What this means is, you don’t feel like shrimp or fish? It is perfectly acceptable (actually highly encouraged) to take all the “money” items and leave the “less-money” items for the rest of the people. The meek and courteous shall starve.

 

Step 2: Exhaust the limited supply of "money" items

Step 2: Exhaust the limited supply of "money" items

So I’ve been jumping all over the place without a real concise message in this post. I’ll try sum it up. 

Asians like to equate how good a meal was to the B4B of a meal. If it was tasty, yet expensive, or small portions, or BOTH (gasp!) then it was in fact NOT a good meal. However if the food was mediocre but had huge portions (or buffet) then it was in fact a GREAT meal. This seems backwards in food appreciation but sometimes you can’t fight what you are. I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom…

 

“The best meal, is a free meal”

– probably some Asian person

Asian People #1: “I can do that”

I was going to title this post “Stereotypical Asian People” but that doesn’t really make sense. That is because the “stereotypical Asian person” is actually every Asian person in the world, the “Asian-ness” just varies somewhat. This will be the beginning of what I think will be a popular series. Let’s begin!

“I can do that!”

We just got back from a Japanese noodle house and I thought it was pretty good. I got the Nabe yaki udon to compare with the Nabeyaki udon at one of my favourite Japanese restaurants in the city. The udon was good. I loved the presentation of the dish. There was a rugged elegance in the bowl that was used and the noodles and toppings were stacked nicely that was reminescent of a Japanese anime. The noodles were decent but I definitely give props to the homemadeness of them. The broth was yummy as was the ingredients (consisting of asian mushroom, chicken, raw egg, clams, seasticks =], bamboo shoot and tempura shrimp). All in all, nice job. 

Now as we all know menus are made up of dishes and dishes are made up of ingredients. But the way the Asian person interprets that is: “oh, it’s just noodles, chicken and egg, I can do that”. OK, to be even more accurate the Asian person says “I can do that and save a lot of money by not going out to eat it”. Or “hmmm, I bet if I buy udon noodles at the store it will be even better than this”. There are pretty decent attempts are recreating dishes that have been enjoyed in a restaurant setting but until now, nothing has been exactly replicated. 

The annoying part here is that this attitude can get in the way of enjoying a nice meal. The thought that the chefs are not really doing anything special or unique, but rather something that can be replicated easily.  That is most definitely a kick in the nutsack. Also the sheer arrogance of the Asian to say that they can recreate something because they think it is so simple. GAH that angers me. Give a little credit to the chef. Get off your high horse and enjoy the experience.

Anyways, all that venting is in fact directed at myself to a certain degree. The Asian-ness in me can definitely get in the way of having a totally enjoyable experience. Maybe not so much in regards to “Asian People #1” but as I tackle issues such as; Asian people judging a restaurant experience on how full they are, or ordering items off the menu that would be the BEST value, or ordering ONLY items of BEST value, or really mislead views on tipping, to plain ol’ manners, I hope to enlighten you all on how ANNOYING Asian  people … er… wait… the Asian-ness can be sometimes.

Not the most important meal of the day

As we all know breakfast, that arrogant bastard is the most important meal of the day. Moms and teachers everywhere have been pounding it into our puny little heads since we were short stacks diddling around with oversized backpacks. My mentality on brekky is to pound as much sugar and things that qualify for dessert to start off the day. Waffles, muffins, danishes… these are NOT breakfast items, but they were MY breakfast items. 

Anyways this is not about breakfast. It is about lunch, which is be default the least important meal of the day. Why do I say this? Simply because of the breakfast rant in the paragraph above and the fact that people love dinner and make the most fuss about it. 

I’ve always thought of lunch in an opportunistic sense. Often times, there are totally pimpin’ restaurants that have a special lunch menu that is more approachable than the huge price tags associated with the dinner menu. This is an awesome time to check out the digs and get a better idea of whether the place can back up it’s reputation. 

Alright, now that the long introduction is over I will tell about two places that I went to for lunch. These two places, R******* and Crazyweed Kitchen had very similarly priced lunch menus (in fact they had similar offerings in their choices). Sandwiches (paninis, flatbreads or whatever other ways of sandwiching there is), pizzas, soups, and salads pretty much dominated the menus. Pretty much none of the items on the lunch menus went over 20 dollars. I took a quick peek at their dinner menus and as expected saw the menu take on more lavish dishes that went along with some lavish price tags. So far my hypothesis of lunch playing olive branch between me and pricey restaurant was on the money. 

I really don’t like to unleash my opinions on other people. But being a foodish blog, I feel an obligation to associate my opinions to a named establishment (in a previous post I gave a review but did not link it to a restaurant). To be as objective as possible I will say that R******* was alright. Personally I didn’t think their philosophy on food was agreeing with mine. This does not mean that someone else going for lunch and ordering the same thing as myself will have the same reaction. But for me it was not my cup of tea. 

Crazyweed Kitchen was something else. I find that they did the simple things right. There was some creativity in the flavours and things were what you expected to be. There was attention to detail. The salads were simple but you could see passion and attention to detail to it. Simple in the sense that a salad is just raw vegetables. But the greens were crisp and fresh and the sauce was not overpowering but just complemented the greenery nicely. The soup and pizza had a certain extra pop of flavour. The grilled chicken sandwich had the most amazingly caramelized onions in it. 

Even though lunch is not the most important meal of the day, it is something that could benefit you quite nicely. I would most definitely go to Crazyweed for a dinner but would maybe think twice about going to R*******. Sorry for not giving official ratings of the places, that’s just not me.  You’re lucky to even get a name and an opinion attached to it. This time I couldn’t see a way around it and in the future I will try my best to avoid it all together. 

McDicks

Today I ate McDicks.

It’s probably one of the worst choices I’ve made in the last 22 years of my life. Previously, I had not set foot inside a McDonald’s for probably 4 years, where a night of consuming lead to a night of puking. The reason for this madness was that I was getting a ride from a friend and was thus at the mercy of his discretion. They wanted to eat McDicks because it was ‘Customer Appreciation Day’. Essentially, you need to buy one of a Big Mac, 1/4 lber w/ Fromage, or a McChicken, and you get a second burger for 1 cent. This sounded so looney that I just had to participate. I bought a quarter pounder + mcchicken + a mcflurry. Why I did this, I have no idea.I did not enjoy a single bite and 10 minutes later I had a slight headache. Furthermore, when I came home, I sat on the couch and I fell asleep. It’s like my body wouldn’t allow me to expend any energy so that it could devote all its resources to digesting the abomination in my stomach. Someone please sympathize with me.

Hakuna Matata, I Had a Frittata

You know, I was thinking – Hakuna Matata.  What a wonderful phrase.  Hakuna Matata.  It definitely is not a passing craze.  You know, in some translations of Swahili, it means no worries. And why not apply that slogan to the rest of your days?  It is truly a problem-free philosophy!  It takes a well-fed philosopher to come up with such an intricate motto.  And most philosophers eat breakfast because they spend the majority of the night contemplating by placing their elbows on bended knee and resting their chins between their thumbs and sides-of-their-pointer-fingers.  It is for this logical reason that I found myself in Avenue Diner on Stephen Avenue one weekday morning before classes started with a good friend.  (Nice segway, Jer!)  

Now, regardless if you are completely confused as to how I managed to mashup the Lion King with flawed deductive logic, we can all agree that breakfast is one of the best meals of the day (along with Brunch, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, and Dessert).  In addition, we had a hankering for breakfast-y foods.  But not just ANY breakfast-y foods.  Breakfast-y foods with a contemporary-y twist!  Enter the Avenue Diner.  A trendy, slightly upscale diner nestled along Stephen Ave, Avenue Diner undoubtedly caters to the business brunch crowd, as there were many tables occupied by suits, but is also a great place for foodies and youngin’s alike.  While the words “upscale diner” may seem contradictory, the menu and decor allow for the juxtaposition.  Upon entering the restaurant, I noticed that it was a lot more long that it was wide (that’s what she said).  But with clean pastel blue, exposed brick, well placed photographs and clean, retro tables, it managed the diner feel with restaurant comfort. 

 

Egg White Frittata at Avenue Diner.

Egg White Frittata at Avenue Diner.

 

The menu was very interesting, with contemporary twists on old diner favorites.  I had the Egg White Frittata, with blue cheese, bacon, carmelized onion and yukon gold potatoes.  This was served in a small cast-iron skillet with some multi-grain toast slathered with melting butter.  The Frittata was quite good, if not a little too rich.  Sensory-wise, it was a very balanced dish.  The bacon provided the usual smokey, saltiness, which was complemented by the deep sweetness of the carmelized onions and soft potatoes.  Providing the tart-richness was the blue cheese, and all this was bound together by the creamy egg.  The flavours went very well together but there was just a bit too much blue cheese, which overpowered the dish and provided too much richness.  However, the dish was still excellent.  

Other menu items include granola’s, parfait’s, griddle items and even sandwhiches and macaroni & cheese – all with a little sophistication thrown in.  I still want to try their Corned Beef Hash – braised brisket, poached eggs and a citrus-basil hollandaise will live to see another day!  The service was prompt, friendly and helpful, and if not for the stress associated with finding semi-affordable parking nearby, I would be there more often.  The only downside?  The price – my frittata was $14.49 (without tax).  But I suppose that’s what you get at Avenue Diner – high quality ingredients put together in more complex versions of old brunch favorites.  It’d be nice to have more ‘upscale diner’s’ around!

 

BONUS QUESTION – how many times did I bold Avenue Diner?