Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

River Cafe – COVID-19 dine-in edition

With COVID-19 hampering our summer plans, L and I are making an effort to visit the more picturesque restaurants in Calgary. I’ve been wanting to return to River Cafe ever since we celebrated Ottawa and Soup’s wedding in 2019. For this post, let’s listen to “She’s Got the Look” by Roxette.

We didn’t manage to score a patio table but in the end, it worked out for the best. It was a cool night and the breeze would have prematurely chilled our entrees. Instead, we sat by the window and were afforded a view of the patio and passersby roaming around Prince’s Island Park.

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I chose a glass of champagne (Gardet Brut, $19) to pair with our fresh oysters while L stuck to a pint of Establishment Brewing Company beer ($9). Whenever we share a plate of oysters, L ensures I get the largest ones. He knows the way to my heart.

Oysters

We ordered four west coast oysters ($19). One variety was Sun Seeker and the other (I think) was Kusshi. The Kusshi was soft, fat and creamy. The Sun Seeker had a lighter flesh with a texture that reminded me of watermelon. The oysters were served at a temperature slightly below room temperature.

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L would have preferred a mignonette over the pickled Salt Spring Island ginger but I disagree. With these oysters, I wouldn’t want anything to cover up those clean ocean flavours.

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We shared the Chicken Liver Parfait ($19). Our toasted brioche was generously spread with a mousse-like pate. The nectarine, cherries and Saskatoon berries were served at the optimal stage of ripeness.

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The nectarine was sweet and juicy, but the skin still had some resistance. The meaty softness of the cherry melded with richness of the pate. The ice wine gastrique was unique – I found it tart and sweet.

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I paired my Beef Tenderloin ($52) with a glass of Bordeaux (2015 Chateau Patache d’aux Medoc, $14). The beef was well-seasoned, soft and almost buttery in texture. I was surprised there was so much flavour in this cut of meat, as I normally find tenderloin bland.

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The emerald broccolini stalks were cooked so that it still retained a crunch. I could taste a smokiness on the charred florets. I loved the combination of the crispy onions and the decadently creamy Popular Bluff pureed potatoes.

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This beef was more satisfying than the steaks I’ve tried at Caesar’s Steakhouse. Though the steak appeared smaller in size than what you get at a traditional steakhouse, the portion we received was filling. We were so stuffed, we declined dessert.

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Thanks L for an incredible meal. I’m keen to come again, perhaps in the afternoon for oysters and wine. I love this restaurant so much, River Cafe makes it on my list of Best Restaurants in YYC. 

River Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Caesar’s Steakhouse

To celebrate Bobbino and Loving Disapproval’s 50th wedding anniversary, the kids took them out to Caesar’s Steakhouse. For this post, I’m going to play “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” by The Shirelles.

The restaurant is an indulgent time warp to a 70’s version of the Roman Empire. The chandeliers sparkle against the glass mirrors and gold drapes. The shiny red leather seats match the bright, bold carpets. My favourite fixture in the restaurant is the chef, who with over 25 years of experience, masters his art over a fiery grill. Mad props to this dude, he is Calgary’s finest steak wizard.

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Our maître d’ Joel knows his wine. If you are lucky enough to get him as your host, tell him what you are comfortable spending and he won’t steer you wrong. He helped me select two of three bottles ($110-120), all from Napa Valley. My favourite bottle was the Ridge 2016 Geyserville, as it paired best with the steaks and I enjoyed the ruby finish. Joel also picked out a Spanish wine by the glass which I enjoyed.

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We all ordered the ‘Emperor’s Feast’. The feast includes caramelized onion soup with house-made beef broth and a Parmesan crouton, a mixed green salad, cheese toast and garlic bread, and a twice baked stuffed potato.

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I heard much about the famous cheese bread. The heavy dusting of cheese was dry and salty.  L complained it reminded him of Kraft Parmesan.  It was complimentary bread so I didn’t care. I told him to choose the garlic bread next time.

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The caramelized onion soup had a touch of sweetness to the broth. Uncle Ben enjoyed his soup more than I did.

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If you order an entree, you can upgrade to a traditional Caesar salad for $9.00 per person. I watched as Joel whipped up the dressing from scratch. Holy moly, what an awesome salad. The lettuce was cold and crunchy. The sauce was garlicky and cheesy, with the brightness of fresh lemon juice and a hint of anchovy. The homemade croutons were light and added a crumbly texture. I would order this again.

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I asked Joel which cut of steak was his favourite. He asked me what I cared about in a steak. I said taste. He said in that case, go for the rib-eye. I ordered the 14 ounce rib-eye ($58) so I could share my steak with L and Uncle Ben. I asked for my steak to be cooked to a medium rare, even though my boss told me to order it medium rare, but closer to rare.

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Though my steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare, the meat was still hot. Joel mentioned that their beef never hits the freezer and the meat is climatized near the grill so it doesn’t bleed on the plate. I can honestly say this was the best steak I’ve consumed in my life.

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The flavour of the beef was rich, and the texture was ultra tender. Using a knife was optional. We learned from Joel that all the beef is cut in house from specially selected Sterling Silver and Prime Alberta Beef and cut to order. The top tiered beef is aged a minimum of 35 days.

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Turned and Loving Disapproval both ordered the 14 ounce rib-eye ($44). I overheard everyone said their meat was cooked to their specification. I gave about half of my steak to Uncle Ben, L and Dave. L doesn’t normally like rib-eye but he thought my steak was even better than his 14 ounce New York steak ($64). I thought all the steaks I tried were excellent. You can’t go wrong with any cut.

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I enjoyed L’s New York steak. The meat was firmer and more lean than the rib-eye, but the flavour was more beefy. L loved the char on the outside and said it was damn near perfection. I think there is something superior about  a steak charred on an open grill.

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Dave ordered the 20 ounce T-Bone steak ($64) rare. He gave me a bite and I thought his steak was yummy. He packed some of his T-bone home and gave a piece to his mother and dog. His mother told me it was still juicy when she tried it. His dog Sam apparently rolled his eyes to the back of his head in pleasure.

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Uncle Ben loves a nice rack, so he ordered the Rack of Lamb ($50). The herb roasted spring lamb was tender and lean, with a mild flavour. This is one of the best lambs I’ve tried.

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I called ahead of time and asked if the chef could make something special for Veggie Girl. I was informed that the restaurant offers a vegetarian appetizer and main, but there is no unique creation. I asked if the server could lie and tell her that it was made specifically for her. I got a giggle on the telephone, but when it came down to it, Veggie wasn’t lied to by Joel. Luckily, said she enjoyed every element of her meat free entree.

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For dessert, Bob and Loving Disapproval ordered the Cherry Jubilee. Joel also brought over a complimentary panna cotta. I was in a meatcoma at this point and I was too lazy to take a picture.

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Joel informed us that Caesar’s has worked with the same supplier for over four decades and as a result, they receive Alberta’s finest beef. I concur. Along with the master chef, the end product is beyond reproach. The smell, temperature, texture, and taste of the steaks is superb.

Price-wise, it is expensive but worth it. Expect to pay about $150 a person. We sat and enjoyed our meals over a three hour period. We were not rushed out and the GM even took the time to take numerous family photos by the entrance. If my father’s health permits, I’d love to bring my family to Caesar’s Steakhouse for an authentic Calgary experience.

Caesar's Steak House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Burgers · Happy Hour · Patio · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Klein & Harris

L won an award! To celebrate this special occasion, he took his parents and I to Klein & Harris Restaurant. For this post, let’s listen to “Whatta a Man by Salt ‘N’ Pepa.

Originally, L wanted to take his parents to Caesar’s Steakhouse. I convinced him to change the venue to Klein & Harris. He was initially worried his parents would be confused with a menu that wasn’t just meat and potatoes. Klein and Harris only uses Canadian produce, wines and spirits to create a ‘true North cuisine’.

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I first met Christina Mah – the co-owner of Klein & Harris – when she was the GM at Raw Bar. When she heard we were celebrating a special occasion, she sent over a complimentary round of prosecco with sumac and kiwi bitters. L’s teetotaler mother Loving Disapproval admired the pretty pink hue so much, she even took a sip. This is the sort of drink I adore – light, refreshing and bubbly.

mocktailWe arrived early enough to partake in happy hour drinks. L and his father Bobbino enjoyed an easy drinking beer – Philips Kolsh ($5.00). Loving Disapproval ordered a mocktail made with seasonal ingredients ($5.50). I found a new favourite white wine – Longhand Pinot Grigio 2017 ($9, HH $5). The regular price for a bottle is only $42, which is a wicked deal, particularly on Stephen Ave. The wine was pleasant, smooth and clean. I also tried a buttery, full-bodied glass of Chateau des Charmes Chardonnay 2017 Niagara on the Lake ($14.75, 7 ounce).

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For appetizers, we ordered Diver Scallops ($20), Mushroom Ravioli ($16), and Grilled Humboldt Squid ($18). For our mains, we ordered Alberta Lamb Loin ($26), Duck Breast ($26), and the Wednesday’s Coastal Feature ($25). I only ordered three appetizers and three mains because L had to leave early to prepare for the ceremony and I’m trying to eat smaller portions. If you have a regular appetite, I would highly recommend that each person order an appetizer and main.

Loving Disapproval thinks she’s allergic to peppers. As a result, the chef prepared all the dishes without peppers, and instead, put it on the side for us to enjoy. We really appreciate the extra effort, as that was a lot of  work for the chef to accommodate one guest while still allowing the rest of us to taste the dish as it was originally intended.

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The Diver scallops were cooked to perfection.  The outside was caramelized brown and the inside was silky smooth. These scallops were savoury from bacon and sweet from the apple nosh.

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The grilled Humboldt squid was overwhelmingly impressive.  Unless someone told me this was squid, I wouldn’t have known because the smooth, soft consistency was unlike any squid I have ever had.

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Loving Disapproval was enthralled with the mushroom ravioli. The filling was finely chopped, almost like a puree or a pate.  L is not a fan of mushrooms and he was impressed. The pasta itself was tender and delicate. The addition of the leeks, blistered tomatoes, greens and smoked Gouda made this dish quite substantial for an appetizer.

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The lamb loin was pink and juicy in the middle.  Like the Humboldt squid, I’ve never tasted lamb with such a succulent texture. The sauce of green tomato and rosemary relish was really tasty and a wonderful compliment to the mild flavour of the lamb.

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L enjoyed the Coastal Feature, a white fish. He said it reminded him of Scandinavian cuisine. He liked the pickled potatoes, the freshness of the flavours, and the crispness of the fish and lettuce.

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My favourite entree was the duck breast. The meat was thick, soft and satiny. I’m familiar with Chinese BBQ duck, which is more gamey, dry and has a rougher texture. At home, I’ve made duck breast twice before and it was so rubbery, I had to throw it out.

This was an eye-opening experience for me. I am astonished that scallops, squid, duck, and lamb can taste like this.  I credit executive chef James Waters’ technique and skill. Truly, he is a master with meats and seafood.

I think Klein and Harris offers some of the best value in Calgary. That’s saying a lot because I find my go to restaurants in the city are well-priced. This gem makes it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Klein & Harris two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Klein & Harris Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Canmore – Trough Dining Co.

Scary Sherry organized a surprise birthday party in Canmore for Veronica’s 50th birthday party. There was a total of seven in our group. L was worried for me as the team consists of all-star alphas. I told him I would be fine. I grew up in a household of strong-willed women. For this post, let’s listen to “You Don’t Own Me by Lesley Gore.

Scary rented a three-bedroom penthouse suite at Solara Spa and Resort. She ordered two charcuterie boards from Table Food + Drink. We all brought bottles of champagne. Scary also spoiled us with grab bags filled with toiletries, fancy treats, after party supplements, birthday paraphernalia and a $10 gift certificate to McDonald’s.

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The plan was when Veronica came inside the room, I was to pop open a bottle of champagne. However, for some freak reason, the wiring on the cork got stuck. I frantically twisted and turned the wiring as Veronica open the door and walked inside. Just when I saw her shocked face, I managed to pry open the cork.

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For dinner, we picked Trough Dining Co. The restaurant itself is small and quaint. We started off with a round of cocktails. I found my Kir Royale ($12) a little flat and didn’t finish it. Everyone else raved about their drink. Shiv mentioned her Bloody Caesar ($12) was awesome.

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I was designated to pick the wine. I asked for something full-bodied and selected a Cabernet Sauvignon ($109, Knights Valley, Beringer, 2015). I’d order this wine again. It was soft and jammy with a hint of dryness. Everyone enjoyed my selection and asked me which winery it was from. BR corrected my pronunciation as I used a hard g instead of Beh-rin-djer. Veronica didn’t like that and told BR not to make fun of me.  I didn’t think BR was making fun of me, but I stayed quiet because I didn’t want to provoke anyone.

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Veronica and Scary ordered the Wild Mushroom Truffle Soup ($10). I don’t normally go crazy for a soup, but this one was phenomenal.  Flavourful and earthy, you could tell the soup was prepared with local ingredients.

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Mandy ordered the Frisee Salad ($14) and Mussels with Frites ($15). I tried a mussel – the shellfish was small, covered in a roasted fennel tomato broth that reminded me of tomato bruschetta.

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Veronica thought the salad was unexpectedly fresh and crisp, with bursts of flavour from the sharp, silky pieces of blue cheese.

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I took a bite out of Swedish’s entrée of Flank Steak and Herb Gnocchi ($36). I found the steak quite lean. Veronica said her taste of the beef was heavenly – literally like butter. I enjoyed the soft pillow-like gnocchi.

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I ordered the Wild Snapper ($32) with Potato Gratin. I think all the charcuterie and champagne I ate and drank beforehand dulled my taste buds. I thought my fish looked lovely but I couldn’t really taste much other than the tomato relish. Besides all the charcuterie, I had also eaten salt and vinegar chips.

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Dessert stood out for everyone, both in presentation and taste. We shared the Sticky Toffee Pudding ($10) and Cheesecake ($10). The pudding was warm and not overly sweet, despite the salted caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream.

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The cheesecake was my favourite dish of the night. The smoothness of the cream cheese reminded me of cold goat cheese. The white and dark chocolate was rich and decadent. The blueberry compote and  dark chocolate wafer cookie added to the richness of the cake. Next time, I’m ordering my own slice because it was that good.

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Happy birthday Veronica! Thanks Scary for all the treats and organizing the Canmore retreat. It was a pleasure and privilege to celebrate Veronica’s birthday with the all-star alphas.

Trough Dining Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurants · Special Occasion

Workshop Kitchen + Culture

I’ve heard good things about Workshop Kitchen + Culture. My fine dining buddy Todd told me one of his best meals ever was at Workshop. For the Big Taste festival, my colleagues Legal and Crazy Girl joined me for Workshop $25.00 lunch special. From our office, we braved walking in the -20 weather to a completely packed restaurant. We had to wait in the Junction Theatre Grand lobby for a couple of minutes for our seats because other customers were dawdling.

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Our server Jennifer was personable, pleasant and a wealth of information. For example, I learned that at dinner, Workshop offers a “blind” three-course ($55) or five-course meal ($80). I envisioned being blindfolded while I ate.  Jennifer elaborated and said the “blind tasting” means you leave the menu in the hands of the chefs. From what I sampled, you’re in excellent hands. Jennifer also told me that alternatively, you can come with a big group and share a bunch of platters for a reasonable amount.

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Crazy Girl and I ordered a salad for our first course. I figured I ought to eat a salad, seeing as how I can’t remember the last time I ate a vegetable that wasn’t fried. Legal choose the soup of the day – a Moroccan and sausage creation. The soup was hearty like chilli and fragrant from the use of cumin.

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My salad was lovely. It tasted good and it felt healthy. The baby beets and pink apples were sweet, which contrasted with the tartness of the green apples. The assortment of fresh, frilly greens soaked up the light dressing of honey and goat cheese.

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The showstopper was our main of albacore tuna. The moment I had a bite, I had a hey ya moment. I received two thick slices of medium rare tuna. The rare part of the fish was silky and juicy. The outside was beautifully charred.

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The warm potato kimchi salad consisted of soft potatoes that I swirled around in the gochujang hollandaise sauce. The maple grilled bok choy was crunchy, and reminded us of a summer BBQ. The spice in the sauce and kimchi was subtle and restrained. I thought the use of kimchi was sophisticated. The micro-greens tasted like fresh peas.

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I ate as slowly as possible so I could saviour every single morsel. The entire dish was brilliant. So much, Workshop is now on my list of favourite restaurants for best lunch and best special occasion splurge.

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I’m not a dessert person but the Azaelia Milk Chocolate Ganache Tart had me swooning. The chocolate ganache and mascarpone was soft and gooey. Mixed with the hazelnut praline and sponge toffee, it was like a fresh, homemade version of Ferrero Rocher.

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This whole meal cost only $25. The main alone was worth $25.00 and that dessert, I’d easily pay $10.00. To put this value in perspective, I want to point out that my husband recently went to McDonald’s and bought a combo meal for $9.05 which made him and my dog sick all morning. 

To the chefs and staff behind Workshop, I salute you. Your milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.

Workshop Kitchen + Culture Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato