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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Amsterdam Reserve

When you read the words, “Amsterdam Reserve”, what do you think about?  Is it a special stash of weed with unparalleled THC effects?  Is it a group of ‘escorts’ being saved up for you?  Is it an aged gouda?

Well, if you answered AGED GOUDA, then you are one who seriously has food on you mind, 24/7.

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Amsterdam Reserve was a cheese  introduced to me a while back.  It is a cow’s milk gouda from Holland that is aged 2-3 years.  This results in a golden, orange, brown firm, hard cheese.  I picked some up from Janice Beaton Fine Cheeses here in Calgary, along with some buffalo mozzarella.  This was one of the first cheeses I had where I came to the realization that cheese could have so much complexity and depth of flavor.

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Letting a tiny morsel of Amsterdam Reserve melt in my mouth, I was met with creamy flavors of nuts and butterscotch with a sweet caramel finish.  Everyone should have no Reserve-ations about trying this cheese and go out and buy some!

What the Pocky?

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Just mere moments ago, I polished off a small bag of Chocolate Crush Pocky. Many of you are very familiar with this little snack, especially if you are either 1) Asian, or 2) an Egg. For those that aren’t, Pocky are these cookie/pretzel stick snacks that usually have a dipped coating on them. They come in bundles wrapped in small individual plastic bags, inserted into a cardboard container with perforation that allowed the top to open like a mouth. When I was a kid, my favorite flavor was Strawberry – tasting the creamy strawberry milkshake-like coating still takes me back to my pre-pubescent days (3 years ago).

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Well, Pocky has definitely diversified its product line, with many, many flavors now available. Some flavors still appealing to small children while others have been marketed towards a more ‘mature’ palate. One of these was the Chocolate Crush Pocky, which I consumed tonight. This Pocky consisted of a light chocolate pretzel stick dipped in a creamy, dark chocolate coating, and rolled in chunks of ‘oreo’ like cookie crumble. If you’ve ever had Cookie’s & Cream ice cream with chocolate instead of vanilla as the base, you’ll know exactly what it tasted like. The coating was creamy, the cookies were crunchy, and the pretzel was… pleasing? But actually, the 4 pieces vanished quickly as they fulfilled my criteria for a late snack. There’s something about Pocky that makes it so addicting – is it the fact that you can just dangle one inbetween your pointer and thumb and just keep on working along the crisp stick? You can buy Pocky at all asian supermarkets / grocery stores.