After having a string of steak-related dreams, I woke up in a bit of a panic. The first evening of my steak adventure had been nothing short of amazing (and filling), but today our group would be stopping by three different restaurants…all in one night.
The panic finally subsided when I came to terms with the fact that the evening’s trio of steak offerings would most likely be delicious. I’ve come to learn that ‘deliciousness’ is the cure for most things, especially panic attacks.
My heart beat slowed down just in time to enter Charcut in a composed, suave manner. I had been here before, many times…perhaps even weekly for Top Chef Canada screenings in the summer of 2011 (note: ‘perhaps’ = I was there every week). Instead of starting off the night by enjoying a cocktail or two (or three) in the restaurant, we were ushered upstairs into their prep kitchen and before we knew it, we were experiencing a blood sausage tutorial.
Now, I do not enjoy blood sausage at the best of times, so this ‘how-to’ experience was a bit hard to swallow for me. After copious amounts of blood were mixed with bread and spices and then put into casing, we watched Connie Desousa trim and portion some bison heart steaks. I had tried beef heart at their pop-up restaurant, CharPOP, in January, so was eager to taste the bison.
The heart steak arrived, medium rare, topped with crispy matchsticks and Charcut’s signature chimmichurri sauce drizzled on top. To make sure the table would leave nice and full, there were sides of duck fat poutine for all! Eating heart is basically like eating a fine grain steak. Once it’s trimmed, marinated and grilled, it’s amazingly delicious. The heart is on Charcut’s current menu, so I highly recommend swinging by for taste. I’ll even foot the bill if you’re not impressed!
Then, out came the blood sausage (picture at end of post). Flavour-wise, it was fantastic, but, this is a personal thing, I can not get over the texture of blood sausage. Though, like a true foodie trooper, I had three whole bites without fainting!
After politely declining the offer to pack up my blood sausage to eat later as a midnight snack, we headed over to Rouge for four beefy courses…Ugh, I am getting full again just recounting this…
Here, executive chef Michael Dekker offered us some non-traditional dishes like thinly sliced beef in elk broth, a take on ‘shabu shabu’, lamb sirloin with a foie gras and bone marrow spring roll and a beef tartar, amoung other things.
Our table was hosted by Rouge owner and chef, Paul Rogalski, who is always so enigmatic. He introduced each of the courses to us with descriptions just as appetizing as what was on the plate in front of me. We finished up our steak tasting here with a sweet honeycomb macaroon, then left for our final destination of the evening, Raw Bar in Hotel Arts.
Upon entering the hotel, we were warmly greeted by Shelley Long (no photo evidence, but not joking) before heading into Raw Bar. Sadly, she did not join us for dinner. Here we started with one of the bar’s signature cocktails, an Apple Cart Daisy which sounds like it’s just for ladies, but it packed an apple-y punch.
Now, I don’t want to say that this steak tour had saved the best for last, but Raw Bar’s chef, Duncan Ly, prepared us one (thankfully just one!) amazing plate of food. A very tender beef tenderloin with topped with pulled short rib and an herb crust.
An accompaniment of snow peas and coconut sweet potato puree graced the plate as well. The potatoes were sweet and smooth. Definitely my favourite potato side of our entire two day adventure.
Isn’t she lovely?
And that folks, is how you enjoy copious amounts of meat in only two days. I may have not eaten for a couple days after the fact, but was very thankful for the experience. As with anything, when you live somewhere, you always take for granted the things that make your city great.Yes, Calgary may be a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of a city, but, when you have restaurants serving up food this, I have no problem stamping ‘I’m a meat and potatoes kinda guy’ on my forehead!
Here’s a few more photos from the evening…
Blood sausage with a fried egg from Charcut.
Myself almost fainting during our blood sausage session.
Tartar starter at Rouge.
‘Shabu Shabu’-esque dish with elk broth at Rouge.
Sometimes, I wonder if I was slapped in the face, repeatedly, with the lucky branch when I was younger. That’s the only reasonable explanation I give myself for being invited to certain events. The dinner I had at Rouge this past week was one of those experiences.
Visa Infinite hosts various dining events throughout the year in Calgary. Restaurants and themes always vary (i.e. Top Chef Canada dinner at Charcut, Model Milk’s executive chef, Justin Laboe and Vancouver chef Lee Cooper of Vancouver’s L’Abattoir, etc…), but the quality is always top notch.
On this particular evening, Rouge hosted a collaborative dinner between executive chef Michael Dekker and Jonathan Gushue (executive chef of Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario). With nine course total (if you count the palate cleanser), I knew I was in for a hell of a ride.
Rouge owner, Paul Rogalski, served as the host for the evening, making his way to each table, introducing himself and chatting a bit about the food we were about to experience. The vagueness of the printed menu in front of me left room for curiosity to grow.
Instead of printing the menu with full descriptions like (my imaginative example) ‘Poached Virgin Quail Breast with Blackberry Reindeer Foam and Essence of Gold’, each course was simply listed as it’s main ingredient (i.e. scallops, foie gras, beef, etc…).
When Paul came around to our table, he explained that with each course we’d get to put out our best guess as to what we were eating. So, kind of like a competition, but you get to keep on eating the prize. Needless to say, I was totally down for this.
Now, I won’t list off every single course to you, which even included a cheddar cheese tasting in-between our main dish and dessert (sometimes ‘all you need is cheese‘ before dessert right?), but here are some of the highlights of what we enjoyed during the collaborative dinner at Rouge…
Arctic Char with sea buckthorn berries in nori broth…The nori broth was a safe bet, but my guess fell flat when I thought the char was poached…and, as for the sea buckthorn berries, well now I know what they are!
Foie Gras and Pear Terrine with bee pollen and foie profiterole. I guessed ‘apple’ was the sweetness layered in-between the foie in the terrine. Damn, so close…
Sweetbreads Bratwurst on top of homemade sauerkraut, double smoked bacon and pesto…I guessed ‘kielbasa’! Damn, so close!
Crab Apple beverage with accompanying sorbet…Quite contrary to my guess of ‘Roasted lamb shank consume and pigeon blood sorbet’. Well, you can’t win ‘em all folks!
Finally, the dessert…A white chocolate brownie topped with chocolate and homemade marshmallow, which had a neopolitan kind of layering to it. I think I saw a few people at the table licking the glasses clean, but let’s keep that on the down low.
After the dinner service had concluded, both Chef Dekker and Gushue came by each table to hear any guesses and fill all the attendees in on what they had tasted throughout the evening. Although most of my guesses were not exactly on the mark, I really loved the opportunity to try and utilize my palate to identify each bite instead of having our food, for lack of a better word, spelled out for us on our menu. It also reminded me that, in this massive culinary world, I still have a lot to learn!
In honour of having this amazing dining experience, I want to pay it forward, and spoil a couple people too, by giving away a pair of tickets to Winefest next Saturday, February 25th (worth a total of $150). The Winefest will feature 236 wines from over 57 different wineries! Sounds like a blast, right? I thought so.
To enter to win the pair of tickets, either leave a comment on this post about my dinner at Rouge or share the link to this piece on Twitter, mentioning both Rouge (@rougecal) and Winefest (@winefest). On Monday, February 20th, I’ll randomly choose the winner from all entries!
*Note: You must be of legal drinking age (hopefully that’s obvious), the two tickets are only valid for attendance at Winefest on Saturday, February 25th, from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. and are non-transferable. The winner must pick up their tickets from will-call at the Winefest event location.
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- Season 2
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- Top Chef Canada: Taking The Challenge Home
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