I guess winter is not technically over yet, but we’ve had some nice days last week, so I’m pretending that it is on its way out and you should too! Here are a few restaurant pieces that I’ve done for Avenue Magazine over the past few months! Still so many great new places opening up here in Calgary. We are one lucky food scene, I’m telling you!
Our most recent addition to Calgary, MARKET, opened up this past Friday and I can’t wait to eat there once I’m back from my trip down under.
Suburban territory in Calgary has typically been left for the Moxie’s and Earl’s of the world, but now we’re starting to see some great local restaurateurs recognize the potential of these areas outside of the core. Just a few weeks ago, Vin Room opened a second location in Aspen Landing called Vin Room West.
Owner Phoebe Fung has always had a great thing going in Mission and now residents of one of Calgary’s far west neighbourhoods can have a taste of what she’s offering.
The new Vin Room has a beautiful interior. The floor-to-ceiling windows shed light on fantastic design accents like a 30-foot wine bottled wall, all full and drinkable and can be accessed by a library-esque ladder. There’s an upstairs private dining area, modern walnut bar chairs and a brightly coloured piece of artwork on one of the main floors that captures the eye…
It’s hard to turn down a dinner, complete with wine pairings, on one of the nicest patios in Calgary. Actually…it’s pretty much impossible. It was a beautiful evening in early August when I attended a special supper at Vin Room in Mission. In this city, we don’t usually get a substancial amount of beautiful evenings, so you need to enjoy them while you can. Did I mention that September is only weeks away…sigh…
Just in case you’ve never been, Vin Room specializes in, well, wine (hopefully that’s obvious?), and great food to compliment whatever it is you decide to sip on throughout the evening. On this particular night, restaurant owner Phoebe Fung had her executive chef, Claire Cameron, lay-out a multi-course menu for our table which read as something of a whimsical fairy tale for my taste buds. Well, shall we begin?
Our first course for the evening was actually three different dishes, ‘sub-courses’ if you will? The first in the trio was a candied salmon salad. The salmon sat on a bed of arugula, fennel and roasted corn. It was topped with a red wine and seed vinaigrette. For the past while, I’ve been in love with fennel, so this was a hit with me. Can’t go wrong with candied salmon either, right?
The second ‘sub-course’ (I think I just invented that word, and I love it.) was a simple tabouli (pictured above) with toasted quinoa replacing the traditional bulgur wheat. I love the fact that tabouli always has that great fresh taste to it, this serving was no exception. The real king of the first course for me, though, was hands down the grilled calamari.
Just take it in for a moment. Gorgeous scoring, gorgeous char from the grill, accompanied by double smoked bacon, peas, mint, and sweet potato. That is one summery seafood offering if you ask me. I wanted to eat this entire place myself, but then that little voice inside my head said something to ‘No. Dan, you have to share with your friends at the table.’ Ugh, fine…The calamari was cooked perfectly. I always hates when it gets to that rubber-y stage. No one is a happy camper then!
Moving along, the table’s second course was split into two dishes. The first, a serving of israeli couscous (pictured) with rock prawns and merguez sausage. Halibut cheeks followed, topped with salsa verde, on a bed of sauteed radishes. The couscous was a rich, filling dish, and I think all of us at the table fought over the meaty chunks of prawn and sausage. Back that fork up Anh!
Although it was cooked well, I’m not the biggest fan of halibut, so the dish was, unfortunately, not a highlight for me. I do, however, really love sauteed radishes (have you ever tried them? You should!), and the salsa verde had a nice intensity as well.
Once we had devoured the second course, the third began to arrive. Breaking back down to sub-courses within the course, the table was decorated with plates of food as colourful as they were different. Pura Vida Beef Flank Steak, Seared Chorizo, Lamb Kabobs, and Grilled Scallions, Zucchini and Endive dishes all graced us with their presences’. At this point, it only seems appropriate to continue to visually stimulate you. So, I’ll do just that…
The steak was served with some garlic green beans, and an almond picada, which I could only describe as being oddly delicious. Kind of on the sweeter side of things, but it went well with the steak.
On this plate there was Chorizo and confit baby potatoes with fresh tomatoes and herbs. The chorizo had great flavour. The only down-side for myself was that it was cut into long, thin strips, making it a bit difficult to eat. I prefer sausage that I can really sink my fork into.
The lamb kabobs was a surprise addition to this course. Phoebe said they were not to be missed, and that was very true. The ground lamb meat was seasoned perfectly, complimented by the mild curry sauce underneath. I had more than my share of this one.
The grilled vegetables embodied a great summer barbeque kind of a feel. I’ve only recently started grilling endives and scallions, and they have become a staple in my summer diet. The romesto sauce was bright and tangy. I may of dipped a lamb kabob in it. Just saying…
Did we have room for dessert? Well, sure we did!
(Clockwise from top left) Lemon chiffon cake, dark chocolate and espresso terrine, pistachio meringue, green tea and white chocolate cheesecake. By this point in the meal, everyone at the table was happily full, so I was happy that the dessert round was just a set of small bites!
The green tea and white chocolate cheesecake deserves a special little mention. The cake was made with matcha powder, which has kind of an earthy taste to it. Matcha is kind of a ‘love it or hate it’ sort of thing, but I love it. I drink matcha lattes all the time, so this was right up my alley!
Thus, ends the fabulous summer dinner I experienced at Vin Room. I would like to thank Phoebe for the amazing food, wine and great conversation. I’m headed back to her establishment in a couple weeks with the Monday Night Supper Club. I’m sure my friends will love dining here just as much as I did!
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