CHARCUT Roast House, Calgary

Even before Connie DeSousa appeared on Top Chef Canada, CHARCUT Roast House has created a lot of buzz. An enRoute Canada’s Best New Restaurant for 2010, their charcuterie and alley burgers (served in the back alley at various times announced on Twitter) has kept their name on the lips of people in Calgary and beyond.

I ate there with a friend back in February, coincidentally just 10 days before the names of the Top Chef Canada contestants were released. We ended up getting the same entrée, but different sides.

For an entrée we had the Spring Creek Butcher Steak, with arugula, fried matchstick potatoes, and chimichurri. It was probably one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. The meat was so tender that it practically melted in your mouth.

My friend also ordered the duck fat fried poutine served with cheese curds and truffle gravy. It was delicious and so very rich. So rich in fact that we couldn’t finish it even though I ended up trying to help her eat the dish. We were stuffed silly. I could easily see this dish being a good appetizer for 3 to 4 people. It’s definitely something that you need to share. I was sad that they cut out Connie’s Top Chef Canada’s poutine Quickfire challenge because I wanted to know if she had made this version for the competition or not.

Butcher steak and poutine

Butcher steak and poutine

The other side that we ordered was the slow roasted heirloom beets served with house-made soft goat cheese and arugula. The beets were tender and slightly sweet, but to me the star of this dish was the goat cheese. It was creamy and fluffy, and had a light tang instead of a strong tang that you find in many goat cheeses.

Butcher steak, heirloom beets and goat cheese

Butcher steak, heirloom beets and goat cheese

For dessert my friend had cheesecake in a jar. I think they were preserved saskatoon berries, but my memory is a little hazy. The cheesecake was light and fluffy.

cheesecake

cheesecake

I had the flourless chocolate cake with graham crackers and ice cream. It was dense and chocolately, with a brownie-like texture. I ended up having to bring some of it away with me because of being much too full from all the good food.

flourless chocolate cake

flourless chocolate cake

Our receipt was delivered with a postcard and the cutest little pig paper clip.

The bill and the pig

The bill and the pig

Alley burgers were actually being served later that night but I was too stuffed to even think about eating them. I had a great meal and would definitely come back again.

P.S. Did you know that I’m doing interviews with the Top Chef contestants? You can read all the other past interviews by using this Top Chef Canada list.

CHARCUT Roast House
101, 899 Centre Street SW
Calgary, AB
www.charcut.com

CHARCUT Roast House on Urbanspoon

Ready for a waffle rumble?

There’s a new waffle in town. A franchise of Wannawafel, a company originally out of Victoria, B.C., opened up in Edmonton recently. They serve Liège waffles, just like Eva Sweet does. Let’s compare them, shall we? (I apologize in advance for the missing waffle parts. It was vital to taste them while they were hot and could not wait for my photographic efforts.)

Eva Sweet

Eva Sweet sells their Liège waffles out of a food truck, and charges $3 for a waffle without toppings (or at least they did last summer, not sure if the price has changed or not). They have three different flavours – vanilla, cinnamon and maple – and have numerous toppings available at an additional cost.

Eva Sweet truck

Eva Sweet truck

I’ve tried all three flavours without any toppings. The vanilla flavour is a little plain and the maple is a little too sweet for my personal tastes, but for me the cinnamon one is near perfect. The amount of cinnamon is just right. These Liège waffles use pearl sugar, which provides a great caramelized crust. My only issue with the sugar is that sometimes you find chunks of grainy, uncooked sugar inside the dough of the waffle.

Eva Sweet Liège waffle

Eva Sweet Liège waffle

Wannawafel

Wannawafel uses a cart, complete with waffle irons. They charge $4 per Liège waffle, and at this point are serving only one plain flavour with no toppings. Wannawafel in Victoria does serve their waffles with toppings.

Wannawafel cart

Wannawafel cart

These waffles are made with beet sugar and are a bit smaller than the ones I had at Eva Sweet. The beet sugar melts and caramelizes very well; there were no discernible chunks of uncooked sugar in the waffle. The dough is a more eggy and light than Eva Sweet’s, but the waffles are less sweet and as a result tastes a little more plain. If you find Eva Sweet’s waffles too sweet, then these waffles are the ones for you.

Wannawafel Liège waffle

Wannawafel Liège waffle

My verdict

I would be happy with either of these companies’ waffles. I liked Wannawafel’s dough better, but preferred the sweetness and flavour of Eva Sweet’s waffles. Eva Sweet’s waffles are also cheaper.

Eva Sweet
www.evasweet.ca
Their location changes a lot, so your best bet is to check their Twitter @evasweetwaffles.

Wannawafel
www.wannawafel.com
Wannawafel Edmonton’s Facebook page
Currently located at 108 St and 99 Ave during the work week. Also planning on appearing at various festivals and events around the city.

Over the mountains we go – eating our way through the High Atlas in Morocco

Ha, I bet you thought I forgot about these posts. Never fear, I’m not stopping. I’m just slow!

We left Marrakech for a long trip through Morocco’s High Atlas mountains. After several hours driving on narrow, windy roads we stopped at a little town that I think was called Toufrine (I could be mistaken) for lunch.

Leaving Marrakech, Mark piled us into a car and we headed into the High Atlas Mountains. After windy roads and a long morning drive, we reached the small mountain town of Toufrine where we met our local guide, Mohamed.

Our gracious host and local guide was Mohamed, who started us off with a refreshing (and super sweet) cup of mint tea.

Mohamed pours mint tea

Mohamed pours mint tea

These almonds and pecans were from nearby trees. Don’t you wish we had this kind of local food in our backyards?

tea and snacks

tea and snacks

The main meal was a lamb tagine, with tender olives, tomatoes and potatoes piled high.

lamb tagine

lamb tagine

my plate

my plate

loaves of fresh khobz (bread)

loaves of fresh khobz (bread)

After stuffing ourselves, Mohamed took us to a nearby mountain town for some sightseeing. We were supposed to go to a town renowned for their waterfall, but the abnormal amount of rain in the area washed out the road and so instead we went to a totally different town called Tighfiste.

On our way there, after talking to someone on an old cell phone, he suddenly asked Mark, our regular guide, to stop the car and he climbed out. And then up. Straight up, in the pouring rain. Wearing only sandals. Trying to find him in the photo is like playing Where’s Waldo. Mohamed is the striped blur somewhere in the middle of the photo. I took this picture while sitting in the car and looking straight up.

Part mountain goat?

Part mountain goat?

He came back with reused water bottles and giant jugs of honey from someone who lives at the top of this cliff. And yes, he carried all of it down that same cliff.
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Beware of sharp objects: my visit to Knifewear

Two things on my food bucket list have been to 1. take a class on proper knife techniques and 2. buy myself a good quality, wickedly sharp knife.

I have been eyeing the sharp and pointy goods at Calgary’s Knifewear ever since I heard about them way back when they first opened inside Bite Grocerteria. They have since moved into their own location and – if the crowd of people I saw in the store was any indication – are successfully growing their business.

Knifewear display case

Knifewear display case

Knifewear, founded by Chef Kevin Kent, specializes in high quality Japanese chef knives. They regularly hold classes on knife sharpening with waterstones, as well as a basic knife cutting class.

I happened to be in Calgary over the Family Day long weekend and took advantage of my visit by signing up for Knifewear’s Cut Like a Chef class. For about two and a half hours, we learned how to slice, dice and not cut our fingers off. Kevin and Rob, another talented knife artiste, tag teamed the class. We covered varied techniques such as dice, julienne and brunoise, as well as some more “exotic” cuts like tourne. Other useful things that we learned included the proper way to use a honing rod, cut up an onion, and slice up a pineapple.

Cut Like a Chef class

Cut Like a Chef class

Taking this class also gives you the chance to try out a selection of their knives. I started out using a Shun knife, and eventually ended up with two more knives on my cutting board. At the end of the class, all the attendees are offered a 10% discount on any knives in the store if they were bought that day.

You can test out knives before you buy them.

You can test out knives before you buy them.

I had good intentions of only buying one knife and of sticking to a pre-set budget. But the knives seduced me, and I couldn’t stop myself. A gift card from some friends helped to defray some of the costs (I have the bestest friends ever!!) but I left the shop much poorer and spent way more than I had originally planned.

The shop, filled with partly people from my class but also with many walk-ins.

The shop, filled with partly people from my class but also with many walk-ins.

There were many, many knives to choose from. Hand forged knives, factory forged knives, long knives, short knives – the choices were overwhelming. I was especially drawn to the Fujiwara knives, which have a finger notch in the blade that makes holding these knives especially comfortable, and the Konosuke knives, which have these gorgeous cherry blossoms polished onto each blade and also felt very comfortable in my hand.

A bunch of the knives I was considering.

A bunch of the knives I was considering.

There were some other knives that I liked as well, and in the end my decision was based on either buying one knife out of the two I mentioned, or buying two knives at a lower price point. In the end I felt that it made more sense for me to buy two different knives than to blow all my money on one knife.

Here are the sexy beasts that I came home with:

My new sharp and pointy toys!

My new sharp and pointy toys!

From left to right: one ceramic honing rod (smooth), one Masakage Kumo Gyuto 180 mm knife, and one Masakage Asai Masami VG10 Petty 120 mm. Both knives are hand forged from VG10 stainless steel and laminated with layered nickel Damascus stainless steel.

From the Knifewear website:

“Asai Masami, born in 1948, works in Takefu Village, Echizen in Fukui Prefecture. His blades are known for a refined and long lived edge. In 1980, Echizen was the first production centre for forged blades to be awarded the nationally recognized Traditional Craft Product accolade. Blades have been hand forged here since Muromachi period (1392-1573).”

“[The Kumo knife] series is named Kumo (cloud) because the blades look like clouds on a really cool day. The Damascus steel is manipulated by hand to give this great dreamy look. The rosewood and pakka wood octagon handle give the blades a nice light feel and forward balance. Katsushige Anryu san is a 70 year old blacksmith with 52 years experience who works in Takefu Village.”

My knives will get their first sharpening for free. I haven’t cut myself yet, but I have to admit that I have thought about stocking up on bandages. I’ll let you know if I nick any major arteries.

Knifewear
1316-9 Ave SE, Calgary
www.knifewear.com

 

more Marrakech food and sights

My last post on Marrakech. But more Morocco to come!

A man was selling mint from giant sack, right on the street.

mint for sale

mint for sale

Fried fish. Mark, our guide, said that it wasn’t worth eating seafood here and that it would be better on the coast. Also, notice the Activia sign. I had no idea that stuff was so far reaching!

fish and yogurt sign

fish and yogurt sign

Lots and lots and lots of colourful tagines for sale.

tagines

tagines

Mutton, anyone?

butcher

butcher

Garlic and spices for sale on the side of the street.

garlic and spices

garlic and spices

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