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Travelogue: the Americas (part 4)


Peter Green
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As usual, I'm falling farther and farther behind.

At this moment, I'm working to catch up in the lounge at Houston Intercontinental.

I'm getting this one tagged a little early, as I need some help.

My last trip to Cowtown was back just about two years ago. That's long enough ago that I my posting of that trip has shuffled off this mortal thread.

At the time, I'd enjoyed Belgo, Teatro, and the place in the Hotel Arts. The place out by the river hadn't thrilled me so much.

Now, I do remember in the responses that Il Sogne had been well recommended. Are there other spots I should return to? Bear in mind that my blood gets thinner and thinner with every year spent in warmer climes, and I'm not going to be looking for long journeys in what promises to be very cold weather this weekend.

On the other hand, should I just stick with the places I'd been eating at?

Please advise!

Peter

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Quick on the general calls for help, here's a more specific one.......

Two years ago, while there were breeders certified for wagyu grade beef, it wasn't available on the menu in Calgary restaurants.

Has that changed?

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Peter:

Belgo? Really? You are one of the few who has said something positive about the place apart from the hiring policy that brings the same "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" commentary that others smirk about when Earls' hostesses and servers are mentioned.

Have not been to either St. Germain nor the Raw Bar which I think are the two spots in the Hotel Arts.

Il Sogno went through a dry spell when their chef Giuseppe Di Gennaro left to open his own restaurant in Inglewood called Capo. Capo is superb and a must go if you enjoyed his food previously at Il Sogno. You will recognize the calamari and some of the other courses plus his outstanding pasta.

I have heard better things about Il Sogno since the chef formerly at the Belvedere on Stephen's Avenue has the kitchen working very well.

Cannot say that I have heard of a Calgary restaurant selling Wagyu beef but I am usually not looking for it. Doubt you would find it at Caesar's, perhaps Murietta's, Vintage, Chicago Chophouse [shudder, like Belgo another I think owned by the same or related group. Another Ruth's Chris opened relatively recently to mixed reviews but you can have that fare almost anywhere in the US of A.

There is an least one Albertan breeder who does produce it. Near Camrose I think. Otherwise I have seen it imported from Idaho's Snake River ranch.

You probably were referring to the River Cafe on Prince's Island. Does not sound like you had a good time. Too bad. One of my favourites.

It has been awhile since our last trip to Calgary and we usually end up in our favourites like Capo, Divino and River's so hopefully some Calgarians will chime in with more recent recommendations.

I have heard good things about Rouge but have not been there myself.

Not sure where you are staying but Stephen's Ave has a number in close proximity if you work your way west from Teatro you will have Centini, Tribune, Belvedere, Divino Wine and Cheese and many more within a few blocks.

Yes, it is supposed to drop to the brutally cold climes we suffered through last week so bundle up.

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I would recommend branching out from your old haunts. Calgary has so many wonderful restaurants.

There is a new place in town called "Alloy" that I recommend you try. It's on 42nd Ave SE, just off of Mcleod Trail. California Fusion cuisine with great ambiance and a decent wine list.

I also second the recommendation for Murrietta's, and for Rouge. They are both spectacular. At Murietta's I recommend saving room for the Baked Alaska with Banana's Foster dessert. Rouge, well... It's in a class by itself.

If you feel like something a little different, you could head down to 17th ave and try The Coup (a very funky, incredibly popular vegetarian restaurant) or Jaro Blue, an interesting Tapas bar.

If you want to delve into different ethnic foods, there are bazillions of choices. Let me know if you would like any particular recommendations.

Have fun!

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Syn and Merlin,

thanks very much for the rec's. It sounds like there's a consensus on Rouge, and Capo will be the winner over Il Sogne.

I lunched at Murrietta's last time I was here, and was well impressed, even if I did have to eat at the bar. I'm at the Palliser, so it's an easy drop-in from here.

I liked St. Germain when I was there last (with a young woman in the booth behind me sending back her terrine of foie gras because she was vegan, and hadn't realized it had meat). And Raw had an interesting menu at the time, and a good looking bar.

Perhaps I found them on a good night, but I enjoyed the moules and veal shank I had when I was at Belgo in 2006. And the beer was good, too. Admittedly, the waitstaff weren't hard on the eyes.....I remember those fishnets......

Oh, and who's mixing the best cocktails in town now? Anybody interesting, or rooms that are worth the visit?

Time for bed now. It was a long flight.

Peter

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the vegan sending back the foie gras terrine because she did not realize it had meat is classic....waiter my steak tartare is not cooked! My vichycoisse is cold!

Enjoy your trip. Let us know what you end up trying. I am heading down that way in March.

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Before we get too far into this, let me put in the links for the earlier parts of this road trip:

Part 1 - Houston

Part 2 - Bogota (which I am really trying to catch up on)

Part 3 - Midland (which is actually pretty cool, and will write itself, but I should finish Bogota first)

and, of course, we're here in Calgary right now, so I won't worry about that. I'll just write.

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February 7

It took a few seconds for it to register in my Bloody Mary soaked mind that the large patches of white I was seeing between the lights on the ground below were fields of snow.

It's been a long time since I've had to deal with snow.

I don't cope well.

Midland had been brisk, but there was a chill here. Still, it wasn't too bad, just around 0 centigrade. But we have reports that the temperature will plummet this weekend. Whether it makes it into the minus thirties like it did last week, I don't know.

But it's pleasant enough to be back here. The staff at our hotel have that annoying Canadian habit of being cheerful, precise, and efficient, that always makes me worry that this country has been secretly replaced by alien beings. Remember, P.J. O'Rourke considered Canada one of the strangest places he'd ever visited (there's a question! Has P.J. ever written directly on Canada? I've only had tangential references like that).

The morning was pretty much packed with work, but I cleared my calendar in time to get away to Murrieta's before the lunch crowd hit.

I'd tried to get reservations, but they were already booked out for today. But they've ample seating in the lounge for lunch (I'd had to dine at the bar last time), so they recommended a slightly early appearance.

Pity, as I love that tall open room I've observed, with the stonework going up and the light coming down.

Someday, maybe, they'll let me eat in there.

Now, I had several motives for Murrieta's.

First, they hadn't disappointed me with their food in the past.

Second, they're just across the street from where we're working.

Third - and most important - I've been reading On Drink, and Amis' talk of Guinness and oysters has driven me to distraction. I needed some oysters, and I recalled that Murrieta usually had a good selection from B.C.

I would love to put some pictures of those oysters up here. Golden Mantles from North of Powell River, just sparkling from the crisp sunlight coming through the windows, perched atop little mounds of rock salt, and these stark colours offset by the velvety cream of the Guinness' head and that dark blackness of the stout itself.

But I forgot the camera in the room.

Remind me to slap myself silly (Yoonhi's not hear to do it for me).

As more of a note for the dipsophilia site, my companion, another refugee from our morning schedule, had ordered a Black and Tan. This was perfect. An extremely clear terminator twixt the Guinness and the Bass, translucent amber with the sun just hitting it right, the light trapped against the black hole of the stout above.

Why, oh why, did I leave the camera behind?

The oysters were wonderful. Reading over the Houston side of things, there were ones I found to be okay, ones that were almost okay, and ones that were too flabby to enjoy much. But these, as Goldilocks would say, were just right. The brine still there, the meat protesting just that little bit, and ragged texture of strength to make you feel like you're actually eating something rather than back swallowing an unfortunate exodus from your sinuses.

I work hard to come up with descriptions like those.

Along with this I had a bowl of the clam chowder - thickly packed with clams, potato cubes, carrots, and matrixed with a firm, thick broth.

And for a main, one piece of tempura battered halibut with a mustard remoulade. Plus, after all these weeks, there was malt vinegar for my fries! The last time I asked for vinegar in the States I could hear them mocking me in the kitchen from where I sat at the front of the room.

They were a couple of servers down this afternoon - I suspect due to the flu that is ravaging this hemisphere (and which I suspect a couple of our team are carrying) - but I had the chance to clear up a couple of questions that had bothered us for awhile.

One was the origin of the name? Murrieta's, it would seem, came from a wine - Murrieta's Well, from the Livermore Valley in California - which they'd quite enjoyed. They couldn't use the full, name, but they could use Murrieta. Sounds like a sound reason to me.

The other question was the building itself. As Calgary has repopulated the downtown core in the last twenty years (mid-80s there wasn't much happening here after 5 p.m.), all sorts of interesting buildings have been reborn. This one, a beauty of stone and brick, had begun way back as a hotel, had been reworked as a series of shops, and then became Murrieta's in 2001.

The only question I couldn't get answered was the vault door behind the reception counter. That had made me think of a bank, but that wasn't the case. Perhaps its from the hotel days, or one of the shops.

It's good to keep some mystery in your life.

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According to their promo literature, Joaquin Murietta the "Robin Hood of the El Dorado" or something to that effect hence the West Coast Grill moniker

Mind you Murietta's Well is not too bad either ... a bottle or two of that 16% plus zinfandel "monster" might make you make some strange name decisions as well....

The staff at our hotel have that annoying Canadian habit of being cheerful, precise, and efficient, that always makes me worry that this country has been secretly replaced by alien beings.

Are you sure you did not have a Bloody Mary or two too many in Houston and missed your connecting flight and ended up in Switzerland?

Bye the way, you are in the home of the Caesar...forget the Bloody Mary

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Bye the way, you are in the home of the Caesar...forget the Bloody Mary

Now that I'm off the plane I can adjust my imperial bloodlines. :biggrin:

By the way, Rouge is good. Just be careful you order your cab before the hockey game gets out.

Edited by Peter Green (log)
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According to their promo literature, Joaquin Murietta the "Robin Hood of the El Dorado" or something to that effect hence the West Coast Grill moniker

Mind you Murietta's Well is not too bad either ... a bottle or two of that 16% plus zinfandel "monster" might make you make some strange name decisions as well....

I hope the Murrietta's Well story has some truth to it. That is one of my favorite Zins :)

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According to their promo literature, Joaquin Murietta the "Robin Hood of the El Dorado" or something to that effect hence the West Coast Grill moniker

Mind you Murietta's Well is not too bad either ... a bottle or two of that 16% plus zinfandel "monster" might make you make some strange name decisions as well....

I hope the Murrietta's Well story has some truth to it. That is one of my favorite Zins :)

One would hope that

Every story has some truth,

Just as every spirit has some proof

:biggrin:

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Have a read from accidental hedonist,

Accidental Hedonists Calgary visit

Accidental Hedonists research on where to go

Make sure to read the comments

300,

Thanks for that! I did go through the comments, but, as usual, I find myself already packing bags and planning on the next leg.

I really liked the write-up in the blog, too. Wasn't there something in SouthPark about one of the kids being adopted from Canada?

Cheers,

Peter

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At this point, back home with my main computers to work from, and with a weekend in which to overcome jet lag, I've now tied up parts 1, 2, and 3.

From here on, I promise to commit myself to finishing the Calgary leg.....

That is, except for when I'm answering questions in the other parts, posting extraneously, planning the next trip, and cooking.

:biggrin:

(don't worry, we'll get there).

Next: Seeing Red

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Rouge

First, had I mentioned about it being cold?

The temperature was dropping. It had been tolerable the evening before, and when we’d gone to Murietta’s for lunch I made do with just the long coat.

But, when we wrapped things up around 7, it was turning bitter.

And there was white stuff falling from the sky. That’s never a good sign.

I bundled. I’d come prepared to layer, and I hadn’t carried these togs halfway around the world and up and down for no reason. The Walmart long johns went on (TMI, I know), the extra socks, the heavy slacks, the boots, the t-shirt, the shirt, the tie, the sweat shirt (I needed the hood), the scarf (Gordon tartan), and the cashmere coat (a gift of my mother’s).

I figured with all of this on, I could make it to a taxi.

I’d called ahead and had a reservation for Rouge, over in what they’re calling Inglewood now (I believer). Someone else had referred to it as “Crossbridge” or some such, but all I know was that it was in the SE.

Unfortunately, when I’d written down the address, I’d failed to note which number went with “street” and which with “avenue”. Calgary is on a very sensible (if uninspiring) grid system of streets and avenues, with suffixes of NE, NW, SE, and SW, so it’s really quite easy to figure out where you’re going.

Unless you’re an idiot.

I was hoping that the taxi driver knew what he was doing.

Synergy and Merlin (above) had both had positive things to say about Rouge, and the concierges (is that the proper plural? It looks wrong) on my floor had also been recommending it.

(Note: I really liked my concierges. After a few days they were getting used to my incessant badgering about meals, and got well into the sport of it all. The fact that they were very easy to look at had no impact upon this)

So here I was, deposited in the snow outside of a residential looking house in a part of Calgary that I never would have ventured into some 20 years ago. Mind you, it was all looking quite proper, and the area was obviously working its way upscale.

Inside, in the hallway/reception, things were abustle with people being directed to this party or that party, and others asking questions about gift certificates and other such things. The young lady at the desk asked me which party I was with, and I cheerfully answered with “None!” and then gave my name. She knew who I was right away. I suspect that lone diners aren’t so common as one might expect. She did compliment my coat, with its antique lable, so my mother must be proud. She said she’d seen a number of these nowadays, the fashion coming back. Myself, I associate them more with gentlemen fond of wine in paper bags, but that’s just me….

I took at table in a small room on the side that looked out over the snow covered garden. I take it that they grow a lot of their own material here, and I wondered as to the best month to be eating. But I shouldn’t downplay winter - there are worse ways to spend your time than watching the snow on the open ground, and if that meant that some of the ingredients might not be as ultra-fresh, then so be it.

The house is very much a house. The rooms have been opened up a bit, but renovation is constrained by the heritage listing (which is what, in part, makes this 1891 landmark so pleasant). The colour scheme is one of strong solid colours and dark wood, setting off the table cloths which are, of course, rouge.

I took the briefest of looks at the menu, but my primary interest was in trying the tasting menu. The executive chef, Paul Rogalski, had just taken Gold Plate in the local competitions, and was away at the Canaidan Culinary Championships (checking up on this, Melissa Craig from Whistler’s Bearfoot Bistro took the prize. A nice result, as she’d been a last minute substitute for Pino Posteraro from his Mediterranean Grill in Vancouver’s Yaletown).

Anyways, where was I? Oh, yes, the restaurant is very well recommended, and they’ve been on the job now as Rouge since 1983, so I had no reason to be worried about the main chef not being there. The waiter seemed a little surprised at how quickly I was ready to proceed, but he recovered well.

Myself, of course, I was still trying to get used to the speed at which things moved here. It’s been a while since last I was in Canada, perhaps two years since Vancouver, and it always takes some adjusting to the “efficiency” of how things happen up North. Nothing wrong with it, and it does make working here a joy, but it leaves me a little breathless at times.

I asked the waiter to treat the tasting as a surprise in each instance, and he immediately asked if he could pair the wines. That sounded fine by me, and I was able to close my menu in piece and turn to my cocktail.

This was not a good start. The “Holiday Martini”. I should’ve known better, and so it’s my own fault, but this technicolour monstrosity not only was way too sweet for me, but it was also full of ice, which is not something I look for in a martini of any name.

However, my first wine, a 2006 Touraine les Charmes Sauvignon Blanc helped put that trauma aside. A bit of bread and some of the olive oil with the mixed berry to scour the candy-like taste out of my mouth (what was I thinking, ordering a cocktail with a cute name?), and a bit of water, and then I could appreciate the wine. The smell reminded me of when you fall in the grass and take your first breath.

This was with a first course of duck liver parfait with homemade crackers and caramelized onion puree.

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The Sauvignon Blanc had a nice sweetness to it that went well with the duck liver parfait presented egg-like in a small cup, flanked by “micro greens” and the onion crackers. This had been bruleed, which made it a delicate matter to get through the top (which reminded me at the time of the hard disk on the foot of a sea snail), but the result underneath was a very pleasant, almost muddy mixture. Taken with the crunchiness of the crackers and the freshness of the greens, this was a pretty little dish. Beneath the greens were some dabs of orange and some rock salt, to pick out some highlights. I allowed the sweetness of the wine to draw out the flavour a bit, lingering on the middle of the tongue, and gave a happy sigh.

The chef tonight was James Wang, who’d come here from the Marriott in Ottowa. He’d done a good job on this first course, and I appeared supported in my belief that a good restaurant holds its own regardless of who is or is not there.

Next I was brought a Domaine Meyer Gewurtztraminer from 2005. This German struck me as somewhat weak for a Gewurtz, but I withheld judgement until I’d seen what was on the plate.

Once I had the soup – foie gras Mulligatawny with crab apple drizzle the wine made more sense. There was more than enough strength in the soup. The Gewurtz carried well with the creamy fatiness of the soup, and with the mouth filling tang of the crab apples. At first I thought perhaps I preferred the Sauvignon Blanc with this (I still had a fair bit in the glass) but the more I tried, the more I came to the conclusion that it was a case of the S.B. contrasting the food, while the Gewurtz, with it’s oiliness, tended more to complement the food, working into the over-the-top fatiness of the broth, and especially the foie gras cream lurking in the middle.

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Settling upon Gewurtz, I use that to chase the taste of foie gras around in my mouth. It must have been two weeks since last I had any foie. It’s amazing I survived.

From the next table I eavesdrop on:

“What are your wine recommendations?”

“It depends what you eat.”

I also approved of the Gallic recommendation of duck over the prawns.

And, I notice in my book, that, although they were good about honouring my request to be surprised with each course, they did check first to ensure that I had no food allergies.

Next came a Pinot Noir, Reserve de la Chevre Noire from 2005. A light nose, and a flavour that rested up front in the palate and twisted my tongue around a bit. With this came the lamb and ricotta lasagna with St. Agur and black truffle. I could smell the truffle as it approached. A baby tomato in thirds for colour, and plenty of lamb and ricotta to settle my hunger.

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Again, after an initial concern, I could see what the wine was meant to do. It was very much about going along with the dish, of filling in the holes that the weren’t covered, of reaching a certain harmony, while I’d been thinking instead of the Henry’s Drive, and how it went for the truffles and accentuated them, reveling in the spike more than the overall impression. I chewed the lamb happily while I kept the truffle on my fork close by my nose.

Right after this came something cute. A mojito gelee and lemon sparkling water a deconstruction of a mojito that worked quite well. The big bubbles in the sparkling water opened up the mint and lime in the gelee, and, like when Manzke did his deconstructed taco, it just tasted right (okay, okay, I know, why go to all the effort to deconstruct something to put it back together to taste like it should?.....because you can!). Plus, I got to eat from another of those Uri Geller spoons. I keep staring at them, but I can’t straighten them out.

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As I look at my notes for my comments on the mojito, I see “it makes me smile”.

Also, I see was a categorizing the courses. I considered the first course, the duck liver, an exploration, accompanied by a rather strident wine. The second course, the mulligatawny, a comfort, with something compliant to ease the load. The third course, the lasagna, was there for the hunger, and it was matched with something soft and omplimentary, and the fourth, the mojito, well, like a good Latin, it was there for fun.

I’m often amazed at the junk I write when I’ve got a couple of botttles in me.

Next came the main, the AAA beef tenderloin with potato puree and espresso jus . I admit it, I was too content at this point to remember to pull out my cell phone and shoot the damned thing. The potatoes had been truffled, and the steak given a dollop of crème fraiche to crown it.

The waiter had recommended a Portugese red for this. I tried it, though, and had to push it back. It was a good idea, but it didn’t feel right, too much front of the mouth, and a little too thick. Even when chewed, it would hesitate in the mouth, and then run to the front. My waiter ran back and brought out a Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa, a 2004. This was rounder wine for the meat, and I was content enough with it.

The espresso jus with the steak was a nice idea, but I couldn’t really taste the espresso. I took my time with the meat and potatoes, and used the cab to wash out all the corners in my mouth with the essence of truffle.

My sommelier/waiter (I never did get it quite straight) was fun to talk with. He’d considered a position earlier with Scirocco at the Dome in Bangkok (or Lebuan, or whatever they’re calling it this week). This, of course, gave me the opportunity to chit chat about the food scene in Krungthep, something that’s guaranteed to have me running over like an Egyptian toilet.

Sorry about that imagery.

As I wrapped up this course, I thought about the story. It had been a good adventure up to this point, but the main lacked a topic. It was more about general satisfaction. Perhaps we were just describing a good marriage with this, having worked through the thrill of early romance, and now settling in to the heavier appetites?

Or maybe I’ve just been away from my family for too long?

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Next I took a warm triple crème brie on walnut cracker with strawberry glaze . With this was a port. One of the Taylor Fladgate 30 year olds, a wonderfully clear port. The brie had a nice hard crust on the underside, and the crème anglaise with strawberries perked up the sweetness already there in the port.

Damn, that’s a nice port to finish up on.

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But, of course, I wasn’t finished. They brought out a sparkly muscat, the Clairette de Die Gabrielle de Richaud, a light alcohol sparkling from Domaine Achard Vincent. This had such a fine bubble to it.

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And, for a man who doesn’t do many desserts, I was quite happy to eat dessert. A treacle pudding with vanilla bean anglaise and whiskey ice cream . Highlighting this were raspberry and blackberry coulis, colourful little swirls.

And, finally to the finish line, an espresso. Just to help me sleep.

I thanked my waiter and collected my things. Unfortunately, I should have thought further ahead regarding having a taxi called. The hostess at the door was a little concerned as she said the dreaded words “I forget there was hockey tonight”.

That, in essence, meant that most every cab was booked out for the evening. Still, a good hostess has her wiles, and she enveigled her favourite company to send a couple of hacks out our way.

I didn’t particularly mind the wait. It gave me the opportunity to admire this old house some more, and I could listen in on the business dinners that were also letting out, reminding me of how glad I was not to have a real job.

And outside it was snowing.

And it was getting colder.

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Divino

I had enough time to dash for lunch. Just. I needed something that would be close, as the weather was becoming worse and worse. It was somewhere down around -29 centigrade, and that’s just not right.

I bundled up as fast I could, and took my latest bit of advice.

Divino’s.

I’d had the concierge check for me, and, yes, they would be open at 11 for lunch. My scheduled work wouldn’t pick up again until 1, so this was possible.

And it was really, really close. Just up the street past Murietta’s, turn right, and I could see the sign right there.

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I made it to the door, teeth chattering. It was just past 11 a.m.

I turned the door….and…..nope.

I was glad I was well dressed, but that was still only good for so long. My blood has thinned way out after all these years overseas in Southern climes. I stamped my feet and peered in the window.

The good news was that there were people in there.

The bad news was they weren’t looking in my direction.

I tried politely knocking on the door.

I tried politely tapping on the window.

I tried politely turning blue and losing body parts.

Finally they ambled over to let me in.

“Sorry, we’re running a little late today, as we’re a server down.”

Thank God and Walmart for long underwear.

Seats near the window were available, and, while sensible eaters had reserved the seats further in where it was warm, I didn’t mind it too much up here. Compared to outside, it was pretty tropical.

Lindsay was at my call today. She made up for much of my earlier discomfort, as she was quite happy to take the time to answer my questions as the lunch went on.

But, before I get to that, what did I eat?

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I started with a glass of the Argentinian Colony of Rabbits, and ordered the sweetmeats. These came braised with orange, topped with greens, and sitting atop endives and a mass of chanterelle mushrooms and twice smoked pig belly.

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This was a significantly large set of sweetbreads than what I’d taken at St. John and other venues. I wondered about my appetite, this being early on in the day. The sweetbreads themselves, probably from the size, were slightly spongier than I recalled in texture. But the endive was a nice touch, that bitterness working well with the texture of the different meats.

Lindsay brought me some fresh, hot bread to make up for the cold butter from earlier. I used the opportunity to beat on her about other places to eat. I may be wrong (okay, I’m usually wrong) but people in the restaurant trade often have a good idea of what’s good and what’s not for local eating.

She agreed that Capo’s was worth the visit (especially if I wasn’t paying), and also spoke well of Alloy, which has also been mentioned in this thread by others. The chef at Alloy is Rogellio Herrera, who’d worked before at Teatro and here at Divino. It sounded interesting, not just because the chef is Columbian. I am a fond believer in working with syncopatic threads as they arise. My only concern was venturing too far in this cold.

Divino’s umbrella group – the Canadian Rocky Mountain Resort Corporate Family (maybe I should make my family use a name like that?) – also has Cilantro, and I’d heard some good things about it. She also spoke well of the Living Room down on 17th (within reach) which has a very good crab salad, and of Vintage, if I felt I had to have a steak.

Outside the window, the snow that had been drifting down earlier was ramming past at a 45 degree angle. The latest group of diners entered the room banging their boots off.

I followed the sweetbreads with the daily special – BC salmon cakes. These were with a cream sauce and garnished with snow crab.

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The cakes were a mix of potato, leek, celery, capers, and herbs, with a dusting of toasted sesame seeds. Good texture, and the medium bodied Colony of Rabbits was fine with this.

Once done, I was sorely tempted by the cheese. But if I had the cheese, I’d want another glass of wine. And if I had another glass of wine, I might not be performing…..well….optimally at work, so I swore I’d be back again for a quiet glass and some cheese in front of that big window.

I do have to mention the cheeses!

(I was going to just scan the menu and let you read, but I have to be careful of my disk space. It seems to evaporate as quickly as my drinks)

A semi-firm Comte from France, described as bittersweet.

An Appenzeller from Switzerland, a firm, bittersweet, fruity cheese.

A Roquefort Causse Noir (‘nuff said).

A Pecorino Vento Estate – barrique washed and aged in hay.

A French Morbier, again a semi-firm from Franche-Comte, but lightly fruity and aromatic, with traces of plant coal.

And, from La Belle Province, Quebec, Le Chevre Noir, a firm, cheddar style made from goat’s milk.

Montasio, which gets really gritty and sweet.

And I could go on further. There’s a total of 22 cheeses, which you can take in selections of 3 or 5 (or a chef’s selection). Seeing as so many of these with raw, unpasteurized milk are considered controlled substances in the USA, dining on plates of these has a certain frisson.

I won’t digress too much. I know there’s a thread out there on the inanity of the FDA’s ongoing war on good cheese. I sat in one seminar once (offshore) and listened to a very talented and passionate man describe the lengths he had to go to in order to smuggle good cheese into the United States. Beside me an acquaintance from the US Embassy, an FDA liason agent, was holding his ears shut and looking at the floor.

The other item I should not is the selection of gins. I know I don’t get out much, but I was thrilled to see names I hadn’t come across before. Old Raj and Danesbury’s from England (and they do say “England” here, not “the UK”), Rogue Spruce from the US, and Broker’s (also English).

Plus they had seven Belgian beers on offfer!

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I tore myself away from the menus and the warmth, and got back to work.

But dinner wasn’t that far away.

A note just in passing, this was my 1,001th post. I'd missed my 1,000th, using it to correct a mistake I'd made.

That just seems appropriate, somehow.

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Congratulations on your 1,001th post Peter! I am looking forward to the next 1,000 posts in the near future. :biggrin: A salute to your verbose prose, very entertaining wit and seemingly bottomless capacity for food. Yay Peter!

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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A Touch of Frost

It turned out to be a very long day’s work, and I finished somewhat shattered, really only interested in a simple meal, without the frills or planning that I should put into these things. I would have to take a meeting after dinner, so my timing was necessarily constricted.

I had the concierge call ahead, and I walked over to Teatro. I just wanted to walk quickly to someplace, and get a decent meal into me.

I’d disdained the idea of a taxi, given the proximity of the restaurant. Perhaps I shouldn’t take on such airs, not when the sky is frozen. Mind you, while it wasn’t getting any warmer, Calgary, with the lights up on the skeletal trees, is very pretty under these conditions.

Life-threatening, but pretty.

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The old Dominion Bank building was still there, holding down the corner. Two years ago it marked the dividing line between the urban gentry and the rougher East Side, a clearer division than the one in Vancouver.

I recall sitting on the patio out back, and my friend being told that the civil ordnances wouldn’t allow cigars anymore, as the smoke might corrupt a minor, even outside. Upon close inspection we did spot some minors in the park, and I would think the City might find other aspects of their welfare to be concerned with (I was going to phrase this quite differently, but thought better of it).

Obviously, with so much time gone by the staff were all different, but the room was much the same – large, well managed, and alive with the babble of conversation filled in with soft jazz. All it lacked the whole roast boar on a spit it had had last time I was here.

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But it was warm.

As was the hostess, from Iskandraya (Alexandria). After all this time away, it was pleasant to chit chat a bit in Arabic (although my part would be just a chit), and to bask in that sense of good humour the Egyptians have.

I considered the tasting menu, and realized that my heart just wasn’t in it today. I opted instead for a simple meal.

I decided to open with a half dozen oysters from New Brunswick - Beausoleils. I’d hoped to take these with Guinness, but Teatro doesn’t offer this on tap (there are limits) but only in a can. I changed then to a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, the Staete Landt 2005.

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As I sipped at this they brought out an amuse – a bit of foie gras torchon served on a Matrix spoon (I’ve used the Uri Geller line too often), and adorned with caramelized onion and a corrugated wafer that gave a nice crunch. Smooth, sweet, crunch, and the flowers in the Sauvignon Blanc.

I was still done in, but at least I was happy.

The oysters arrived with a choice of a granite of a spicy apple mignonette, a tabasco sauce (which I found out), and a simple lemon slice.

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The granite is an interesting thing, the contrast of ice crystals with the oysters being a neat trick. It reminded me of something I’d seen in Korea, where they would freeze a vinaigrette, shave it, and serve it on the salad to give you that very fresh hit. It would melt readily enough, but it was mainlyl about first impressions.

The tobasco I was caught out by. It wasn’t that it was overly spiced, but it was enough so that it rather ruined my mouth for the wine and the mignonette. I turned to the bread momentarily, and, with that and water, tried to balance things out.

The oysters themselves were good enough, but I’d preferred what I’d had at Murietta’s. These were smoother, softer, and more well-healed, while I like the variety in the mouth that I’d had with the B.C. ones.

Of course, I may just be biased.

In talking with my waiter, Josh, I tripped upon a valuable bit of information. I found out where to buy a crumber.

I don’t know if this is a big deal for you, but it mattered to me. Yoonhi had had me on the lookout for a crumber for ages, and I could never find them. In Houston I’d asked about them, and found that they were in short supply indeed. Most of the servers relied upon visits by the wine merchants, who would hand them out as gimme’s.

But, Calgary, bless it’s heart, has them for sale at The Cellar, right near Divino’s. Only around $2 or so. Okay, they’re not sterling, they’re plastic, but they look okay, and they’ll work at a dinner party (as opposed to the brushing things off with my grubby paws).

Where was I?

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Ah, yes, the soup. This was a duck consomme. They’d done a double consomme, running through the clarification twice, and then had flavoured it with white truffle. At the bottom of this was a ravioli of duck bits, carrots, parsley, and probably some other things I’ve forgotten.

The ewer they poured it from was a thing of beauty, as was the consomme. It was clear, piping hot, and tasted the way I can never get my consomme to taste. And the ravioli yielded up what tasted like giblets. It’s been so long since I’ve had duck giblets that I can’t say for certain. The hint of truffles lingered back there. This was a very nice surprise.

I felt myself recovering somewhat. The room helped. There’s something about dining in old banks that has me thinking of the demise and resurgence of capitalism, particularly as I indulge in truffles and foie gras.

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My main was Digby Bay scallops, served with spaghettini, Gaspesie sea spinach (not quite a kelp as I’m used to it), tomatoes, and anchovy butter.

Lemon grass was used to skewer the scallops after they’d been seared with the spices. It’s a nice idea, but the lemon grass didn’t do much, as it wasn’t opened to release its smell. Still, the anchovy butter did have an effect, and I quite liked the buttery, salty feel that eveything took up. But I really like salt.

I’d picked up a Stuhlmuller Chardonnay from the Alexander Valley in California to go with this. It did the job of cutting the butter and prepping my mouth for the next bite, so the course went well.

As expected, I passed on dessert. I needed to meet an old acquaintance interested in our company at the James Joyce, and anything sweet I enjoyed now would just be in the way of the Guinness bashing that was to come.

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I contented myself with picking at the profiteroles and meringues that were presented (okay, I only have so much restraint) and then headed out into the cold. A last bit of Arabic before the frost, and I was gone into the night.

My initial reaction would be to compare the restaurant of 2006 with that of now and to say that it was “diminished”, but reflection, which always comes of my looking at my experiences, would tell me that it was myself, tired out and bedraggled from one too many plane flights that was the lesser, not Teatro.

The service had been very good, attentive, and not too close, while still willing to entertain my questions. And while I did not interact with the sommelier (who looked somewhat like Hiro from Heroes) Josh was quite up to the task of choosing wines.

Perhaps I've just been gone too long?

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Congratulations on your 1,001th post Peter! I am looking forward to the next 1,000 posts in the near future. :biggrin: A salute to your verbose prose, very entertaining wit and seemingly bottomless capacity for food.  Yay Peter!

"Verbose"? Moi?

:biggrin:

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Saturday, and the Wages of Guinness

Many of you know what it’s like to wake up for work having had one too many pints of Guinness the night before.

As Flann O’Brien, the great man, said “Thou shalt not drink ten pints of Guinness”. At least not without losing it. I can’t recall now, if that was the Third Policeman or At Swim-Two-Birds. Someone help an old man out here.

You have that horrid sour-iron tang in your mouth, the thickness about you that makes you check for a lost tooth in a fight some dark alley somewhere, but thankfully you find all of your necessities still attached. You brush your teeth for what feels like ages, and rinse your mouth ‘till it comes clean with the darkness.

And then, fool that you are, you don’t go back to bed nor take a hot bath, but drape yourself in new clothes (the ones from last night smell somewhat astray) and get down for a cup of that modern opiate, the coffee, and hope it’ll give you the same sort of strength the whiskey gave you the night before.

I shouldn’t poke through my old Irish writers while I’m writing. I get carried away.

This was another horrid day. This time it was packed enough that I wasn’t even to get away for lunch, but would work through to six.

I did slip away for ten minutes, and asked the concierge to get me a booking at Capo’s, however.

When I was here last, everyone talked after about Il Sogne. But it appeared that the chef there had left, and moved on to Capo’s. I’ll listen to public opinion, and so felt that a good Italian was something that I could indulge in on a cold Albertan night.

When I returned, however, I found that, for whatever reason, the Palisser and Capo’s weren’t talking to each other. The concierge was very apologetic, but it wouldn’t be the fault of either of them. Too often visitors make reservations, and then fail to materialize. This leaves the hotel with a tarnished reputation, and the restaurant with empty seats (and just get me going about this with regards to the Bangkok dining scene!).

I was on my own. I called Capo’s to try, and, unfortunately found that they had been sold out for weekends for quite some time. Even a singleton like me wasn’t going to fit in. Still, they would waitlist me for the 8:30 setting, and we would see what would happen.

I was stuck.

I wouldn’t say I was starving. I carry enough extra sustenance on my frame that it would probably take a few months to get me down to Ethiopian proportions, but a day without food was telling upon me. I spent some time with the rest of the team in the lounge, but would escape to my room on the half hour to check on the status of Capo’s bookings.

Unfortunately, unlike Quattro in Whistler where my persistence paid off in a pair of seats for Vivalda’s dinner, I was to have no such luck with Capo’s. Fully booked they were, and fully booked they would stay.

Darn.

Now I was in the next stage of my quandry. What to do now?

There were a number of places that sounded good. Alloy in particular was intriguing, but I really didn’t want to have to mess around heading outside of the downtown area to find myself late for a setting.

The concierge made a few phone calls for me – The Belvedere, BLVD, Vintage, and then things worked out with Tribune, across the street from Divino’s.

I was, I admit, becoming very localized in my dining.

I hurried through the empty streets to the Trib. Merely a couple of blocks, and the weather had lifted slightly. My skin no longer burned as the air stripped the moisture out of my pores. And I didn’t feel the cold claw of frost working up my nostrils and down my lungs.

It wasn’t as bitterly cold.

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Just don’t get the idea this was tropical.

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The Tribune welcomed me by name once I’d entered and asked for a table for one. And Vanessa immediately sent out a glass of bubbly to cleanse my palate and put me in the mood.

Vanessa, you’re a good woman.

It was a good menu, and I was hard pressed for my choices. In particular, their risotto looked excellent. But when I consulted with my waiter, it became apparent that, even with my hunger, this was meant as a main, and not as a pasta dish.

It’s not really odd, as we all experience it, but I’m well aware now that the hungrier I become, the less I’ll eat. Or, rather, that I’ll eat too fast, and “fill up” too soon. As good as the rice sounded, I decided not to go there. Pity, as I read now on the internet that that may be chef Andrew Keen’s signature dish.

I’m also becoming aware, as I research the Calgary food scene more (“And the reason you didn’t do this before you went is????”, queries Yoonhi) is how tight a circle it is. Andrew Keen, the chef here, had been the original chef at the Living Room, which had also been recommended. Looking at the movement of chefs in Calgary, you’re struck by how many stay here, rather than the international comings and goings we see elsewhere. It does give this city very cozy feel. Sort of made me think of Glasgow, of all places, where many of the chefs (at least at the end of the 90s) had similar pedigrees (many tracing back to common ancestry at the Ubiquitous Chip).

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The amuse bouche was a venison pate with black truffled demi glace. This was as good as it looked, with the game coming through in the pate, and the gooey demi glace filling up my nose with truffle. Not bad at all with a glass of bubbly.

I gave myself over to being a carnivore. I find it hard not to be interested in tartares when they’re at hand, so I ordered a nice mound of raw meat – Spring Creek Ranch tenderloin – seasoned and laced with shallots and capers. A few pieces of brioche (“c’mon, it’s toast”) to stretch it out a bit.

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My palate cleanser of a wine was long gone, and we’d decided on a vin gris for this course. For this a monastrell, Torbreck 2006 from the Barossa Valley. Against the tang of the capers in the meat and the cool, dead flesh itself, the mild sweetness pulled things out well. Of interest to me, while I’d known of this as mourvedre (monastrell is the Spanish), I’d never heard of it as “Estrangle-Chien” or “dog strangler”.

I’m thinking of Dali now. Un Estrangle-Chien Andalou has an interesting tone to it.

The room down here (dining is done in the basement, drinking upstairs at street level) is low lit, light playing off of the sandstone walls. The wall beside me is clean, just the old stones that I can reach out and touch. The opposite wall is fronted by the wine racks, the bottles lying lengthwise to the audience, backlit against the rock.

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My next dish was gnocchi (I need a pasta dish in a proper meal), with a ragu of braised lamb neck, with white truffle oil and pecorino cheese (a nice conceit to use sheep’s milk with lamb’s neck). The ragu is sweet, and the meat pulls apart like something from a zombie movie. My waiter brings me a half glass of Schug Pinot Noir from California. This is a fuller wine, but not over the top. I enjoy this with the animal fat and grease in the ragu.

The gnocchi themselves are very soft, chewier than many I’ve had (and making me wish for my own kitchen again).

A table nearby has two plates of the fish in a bag. I’m sure it has a much more alluring name here, but was effectively the same method as I’d observed in Bogota, the fish bagged in parchment. It’s a small world (everybody sing along, now).

My last wine is a treat, and one of which I take a full glass. A Catena Malbec from 2005. When I’d first asked about this when I’d received the wine list, I was told they were out. But the Tribune is partners with the Cellar across the street, and they were able to have a couple of bottles brought around by the “the Cellar guy”.

Now, as I contemplate my drinking, I see an evolution from the blushing sweet vin gris, to the fuller pinot noir, and ending in the carnal savagery of the malbec.

Writing, as I am now, from the domestic tranquility of my home, the child at her homework, Yoonhi meeting with coaches, I wonder “Where do I get this stuff from?”

But, back to the maelstrom…..The malbec is as brutal as I’d hoped for. There’s something about this wine that makes me want meat, and lots of it.

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With this I was having the bison daube – a red wine braise tarted up with smoked bacon and hand-rolled truffled garganelli. For the garganelli they store the truffles in the flour beforehand, imparting the aroma. They do a 12 hour braise for this, and what I get are three beautiful chunks of meat glistening darkly in the sauce.

The meat pulled well, and, as predicted, I could feel my appetite grinding to a halt. This was about right.

As I said, I’d controlled myself. The menu had a fine selection of shared dinners, including duck, leg of lamb, chateaubriand, and a bison porterhouse at 36 oz. I’d contemplated all of these, but knew I wasn’t up to the feat this evening.

I considered their selection of liquid desserts, but opted instead for a graceful exit, rather than doing a Mr. Creosote. Still, the options were tempting. They were doing flights (or tasters) of ports, cognacs, Scotch, and ice wine.

I really wanted to go back across the street for some cheese at Divino’s, but the bloat I was feeling made this apparent unto myself that it was not a wise idea.

So, instead, I went with Murietta’s lured in by the sound of live music, something I only have access to on an occasional basis.

And I think I ended up back at the Joyce in the snook later on.

But that’s not for here. You'll need to wait upon my catching up on the Dipsophilia side of things.

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