A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to attend an amazing collaborative dinner at Rouge courtesy of the Visa Infinite Dining Series. This culinary experience takes place all across Canada (you can check out upcoming dinners in Vancouver, Montreal and Cambridge here), so it’s always a treat when a Calgary restaurant is able to host one.
Last month, I was invited to a (seven course) brunch at River Cafe. Known for it’s locally focused menu, this is a place where the subtle details and every ingredient on the plate really counts. The brunch was hosted by local food critic, John Gilchrist and, man, that guy is hilarious! Well, I already knew that, but he was really on this particular morning. The humorous highlight for myself, personally, was when he informed the room that spot prawns are actually hermaphrodites. Seriously, who knew?
Well…enough with sexual ambiguity of shrimp. Let’s get to the food! River Cafe’s executive chef Andrew Winfield created a brunch that was nothing short of amazing.
After the initial canapés, oysters and champagne finished flowing around the room, everyone took their seats. We were welcomed with Lois Lake Steelhead Trout Lox. Served with smoked chèvre, blood orange and caviar this fresh little salad was almost too pretty to eat. Of course, I ate it anyway!
Next up, (the aforementioned hermaphrodite) Spot Prawn served on grilled brioche, leek, brassica mustard and a house made chorizo sausage (sausage kind of hidden in the back there). The sweet brioche and the smoothness of the leeks helped to balance out the spicy chorizo.
Moving along to the next seafood course, this plate offered us Wild Pacific Blue Cod with Parsnip Rösti and Lobster Vinaigrette. I always like to see some parsnip on a plate, as I believe it’s a truly underrated vegetable. Perched on top of the rösti was a ’64 degree farm egg’. What is that exactly? Well, as Mr. Gilchrist pointed out, it is in regards to the egg’s temperature. Cooked via sous vide to 64 degrees for the perfect consistency.
Ah, now this one is a beauty. A Wood Grilled RoyalFarms Elk Striploin served on top of a quinoa and porcini mushroom ‘porridge’, drizzled with huckleberry jus. Typically, I’m nota huge fan of quinoa, but enjoyed it in this application. The elk was the standout here. Absolutely delicious. I seriously had dreams about this plate of food for the next couple weeks. And, isn’t this brunch seeming more and more like an early, early dinner? So much awesome food! We’re almost done, I promise!
Prior to dessert, we served a trio of cheese. Baluchon, Organic Aged Cheddar and Sylvan Star Gouda (always a favourite) came with various compotes and some crackers. A perfect segue to dessert.
Last, but not least, came a Poached Pink Lady Apple with Lemon Verbena Frozen Yogurt (made from goat’s milk), Saskatoon berries and hazelnut. I liked the apple, but wasn’t in love with the frozen yogurt. Goat dairy products and I are not a good match, just personal preference.
And, with that, the brunch came to a close. Experiencing this brunch on a Sunday with a table of fantastic people (purely happenstance, but I had great company sitting beside me. New friends!) and in the cozy, cabin-y, slightly romantic atmosphere that is River Cafe will definitely remain a dining highlight for me this year.
The next Visa Infinite Dining Series event that is happening in Calgary is, I believe, some time in early June. I do know the chefs and restaurants involved (great combo!), but am unsure if I am allowed to spill the beans. For now, I will have to keep you in suspense!
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