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

Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, Las Vegas

When we decided to take a trip to Las Vegas, I knew immediately that I wanted to put a stop at Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s French bistro, at the top of my to-do list. I’ve been dreaming of The French Laundry for years — way before I started this blog, and before Ratatouille (which used his kitchen and food as inspiration) — and this would be my first chance to try any food by Thomas Keller.

Both Bouchon and the Bouchon Bakery are located in the Venetian hotel, but are in two totally different locations.

Just getting to the restaurant is an adventure in itself. Instead of being located in the main part of the hotel itself, the restaurant is actually in the middle of the Venezia Tower and I had to get permission from a security guard to take the hotel guest tower up to the correct floor.

The decor inside the restaurant is amazing; as soon as you step inside you forget you are in a hotel tower and are transported to a French bistro. Tall windows let in plenty of light, the patterned floor draws your eye, and the wood warms the room. Menus are printed on brown paper and wrapped around your napkin.

Bouchon - table settings

Bouchon - table settings

Daily specials are written on a couple of chalkboards – one posted near the entrance and one near the windows.

Bouchon - daily specials

Bouchon - daily specials

Service was warm and efficient, and along with our server we had water service from someone else who I think was the sommelier (but I never asked). Continue reading

Red Ox Inn, Edmonton

It’s Fork Fest time again, and this time I managed to eke out a little time to take advantage of one of the offers and have a meal at the Red Ox Inn last night. Fork Fest is run by Original Fare, a collective of independent restaurants in Edmonton. For 2 weeks, Monday to Thursday, each restaurant on the list offers a special set meal for either $20 or $35 per person. It’s an excellent way to try a new restaurant without shelling out a tonne of cash.

This was my first time dining at the Red Ox Inn, although I have heard many good things said about the place. The restaurant is very, very small. I took a quick count, and it seemed like there were only 30 seats in the dining room (although you may be able to squeeze a couple more people into one of the booths). I’d say reservations are vital. The place is decorated modernly but is warmed with wood floors and the small size gives the dining room a cozy feeling. It’s a good place to go with friends for a nice dinner.

What struck me most about the food I had at the Red Ox Inn was that for the majority of our meal there was one outstanding element on the plate, but that the remainder of the dish was good and perfectly cooked without being extra special.

For appetizers, there were two choices – a soup (purée of wild mushroom with Madeira and Gruyère-mushroom rye crostini) or a goat cheese salad (medallion of warm chèvre with spinach, almonds, bacon, and cranberry port dressing). We both wanted to try the soup, but opted for the salad instead as we both needed more vegetables in our diet.

The star of the salad was the warmed goat cheese. Coated and lightly fried, texturally the cheese felt like biting into a crispy-on-the-outside crab cake, but with gooey cheese in the middle. The cheese was relatively mild too, which is nice because sometimes I find some goat cheeses are too sharp. The rest of the salad was good but didn’t seem like anything I couldn’t have made at home.

Medallion of warm chevre with spinach, almonds, bacon and cranberry port dressing

Medallion of warm chèvre with spinach, almonds, bacon, and cranberry port dressing

Continue reading