Happy Hour · Restaurants

Merchants Restaurant & Bar

My friends told me that the scene at Merchants Restaurant & Bar on “Wine Wednesday” is a real hoot. Apparently, the crowd makes for great people-watching. So for our monthly girls’ night, Kournikova, Betty, Québecoise, and I decided to check it out for ourselves.

I called ahead to make reservations. However, a staffer informed me that the restaurant doesn’t take reservations on Wednesdays because it is too busy. After some prodding, I learned we could get a table if I came before 5:00 pm or after 7:00 pm. I landed a booth that afforded a bird’s eye view of the lounge.

I often go with friends on half-price wine night at Earls or Cactus Club, which draws a mostly female crowd. However, this is different for Merchants —these suited-up dudes like their discounted wine! Let’s listen to something from Flight of the Conchords for this post.

I looked up the wine list before and knew I wanted to order a bottle of Simonnet Febvre Chablis ($80, HH $40). However, the restaurant was out of this bottle. So instead, I ordered Louis Latour Macon Lugny ($70, HH $35). I found this wine light and a touch sweet. Québecoise said she enjoyed it and would order it again. However, I wasn’t sold and asked her to pick the next bottle.

Québecoise did select a superior wine – a French Sauvignon Blanc – Alain Gueneau ‘La Guiberte’ ($80, HH $40). Damn – she’s got the best taste. Kournikova said she could taste green apples. Québecoise and Betty thought the wine tasted sour because we had just sampled the last bottle, but it was so loud that I missed the full explanation. I was distracted because I overheard the scandalous conversation at the following table. I felt like I was watching a live episode of the Real Househusbands of Marda Loop.

For food, we shared the Shrimp Gyoza Dumplings ($16.95), Calamari ($15.95), Carpaccio ($22.95), Mixed Salad ($15.50), Filo Baked Brownie ($10), and the Decadent Chocolate Cake ($10).

The carpaccio was delicious! Each bite was pure beef heaven. The tenderloin was silky, tender, and flavourful. I loved the creamy mixture of truffle oil, shaved parmesan, mustard and horseradish aioli. The capers added a tart, salty bite, and the arugula was crisp and peppery. The portion was so generous too. I would get this again.

I also liked the mixed green salad. The maple pepper balsamic vinaigrette was zesty and went well with the cherry tomatoes, toasted pecans, crumbled feta cheese, and slices of cucumber. I would get this salad again too.

The gyoza and calamari were standard and not nearly as good as the carpaccio or salad. If I could do it over again, I would get a pizza or wings instead. A table over to us ordered hot wings, and the fragrance of fried chicken was intoxicating. There’s just something about deep-fried chicken that makes me weak in the knees.

When we received our bill, we were shocked at how inexpensive it was. Ah, wine Wednesday, how economical you are. And the entertainment was free! Sometimes it pays to go out midweek. Hitting the Sauce gives her friends two phat thumbs up.

Restaurants

Laurent Cazottes – Vine Arts

My buddy Chen is in town! I invited him to my newest addiction, a spirit tasting ($30) by Juice Imports at Vine Styles. I told Chen this was a rare event, as there are less than 30 bottles of each cuvée in Alberta. For this post, let’s listen to “We’re Are Going to Be Friends” by The White Stripes.

Erik was showcasing seven different spirits and liqueurs from Laurent Cazottes. Located in Tarn, France, Laurent Cozottes is a small farm with only 10-20 hectares of land. Erik told us that “eau de vie” means fruit distillment. He describes eau de vie as wine-like but with the spirit of fruit. Erik has a way with words.

We were treated to Fleurs de Sureau mixed with bubbles (Elderflower Liqueur, $54) for our welcome drink. I found the fragrance unique. Chen enjoyed this refreshing cocktail.

We learned the process the owners of Laurent Cazottes employ is time-consuming and labourious. For example, for the apple eau-de-vie, each fruit is hand quartered, the seeds scooped, destemmed, and made into a delicate cider through a maceration process. Then, a small quantity of the cider is distilled and aged in a glass bulb for years to create a smooth, soft finish with a ton of complexity.

The Pomme Pomme Gueulle (Apple Eau-de-Vie, $108) has a strong scent. Erik said he could smell the essence of the apples. The apple eau-de-vieu is made from 15 varieties of apples from the estate. As I sipped, I felt a warmth in my throat. Erik suggested adding drops of water to change the flavour profile and observe how the oil separates from the water. Erik drinks eau-de-vieu straight up but also recommended serving it with crushed ice and bubbles.

The Reine Claude Dorée (Plum Eau-de-Vie, $89.50) is made from golden green plums. Erik thought this was the most expressive de vie – a powerful floral violet. I enjoyed the full body and rich texture. However, I didn’t finish the entire glass because I felt buzzed. Erik said we could spit out the alcohol, but I whispered to Chen that I don’t drink to just taste but also to feel. Chen snickered and told me to slow down, pointing out that I drank more than him and perhaps I was getting too intoxicated. I responded that he was reminding me of my mother.

The Aetois (Eau-de-Vie Marc de Champagne Jacques Lassaigne, $90) is made from fresh champagne pressed grapes, mixed with water to extract the full flavour from the skin, then fermented for a lengthy period. Erik mentioned the eau-de-vine has a strong chardonnay finish with some fire. Someone else said it was spicy. Mark, Erik’s business partner, said he could taste blueberry. Unfortunately, I didn’t taste what everyone else was describing and began wondering what was wrong with my tastebuds.

The Cedrat (Citrus Liqueur, $63) tasted a little bitter from the pith of the lemons. However, the smell was bright and sunny. Erik told us that the citrus liqueur is aged in barrels and blended with fresh grapefruit. Chen said he could taste the lemon peel. I found the citrus liqueur intense and refreshing.

The Tomates (Tomato Liqueur, $66) is made from 72 varietals of tomatoes from the farm. Chen smelled sundried tomatoes and tased prunes. Erik described this liqueur as having lots of umami with a sweetness to it. He said that everyone’s experience influences what they taste, and what matters most is how the spirit feels and impacts you.

The next tasting was Noix de Pays d’Oc (Walnut Liqueur, $52.50), made with green walnuts, wine and brandy from the farm’s production. I could taste brown sugar. Erik described this liqueur as savoury, rich and supple. Laurent Cazottes uses a solera process for aging and blending this liquor, which produces a higher range of flavours and complexity as all the vintages play together.

We were given a special treat for our last tasting – De Poire Williams, a pear liqueur. I could smell and taste pear. Erik declared that these particular spirits taste alive because of the farming techniques employed. In organic farms, the fruit is far superior, making it a better product. Chen told me he was glad he came; as it was an eye-opening experience.

According to Erik, if stored in a dark place, the eau-de-vie lasts forever. For the lemon and tomato liqueur, you will want to drink it within three weeks, as you will lose some of the freshness. The walnut liqueur can last three months in the fridge.

I learned that Calgarians don’t know how lucky they got it. Typically these liqueurs are only found in the most lavish wine bars in New York. Even if you could get your hands on a bottle at a specialty liquor store, it is twice the amount that sells at Vine Arts.

With the rising cost of groceries, I’m eating out less and entertaining more at home. That’s why I love coming to Erik’s Sunday wine tastings. I can taste incredible wines for an insanely low price and pick out new fun drinks to hopefully impress my guests. After consulting with Erik, I bought the walnut liqueur for an upcoming dinner party and a bottle of Cocchi Rosa to liven up some Italian bubbles I purchased for my forthcoming Stampede party. I also concocted a fruiter, sweeter alternative for the lightweights.

I hear Erik is hosting a traditional wine tasting in two weeks. I’m heartbroken, as I can’t make it on that Sunday. If you are lucky enough to snap a seat, send me a note and tell me what I missed out on.

Restaurants · Wine tasting

Vine Arts – Domaine des Marnes Blanches Wine Tasting

I’m getting tired of my usual rotation of wines. I also want to find some mind-blowing wines for my upcoming dinner parties. I’ve been looking to increase my wine exposure and stumbled across a post through Vine Arts and Juice Imports about an upcoming Domaine des Marnes Blanches wine tasting event ($30). I snagged the last two tickets and brought my friend Bubbles. Let’s listen to “Ma Rue Fera Echo” by Doux si Doux for this post.

Erik Mercier featured 2020 wines of Domaine des Marnes Blanches from the alpine region of Jura, France. For this tasting, the cost of our tickets went to pay for the bottles we drank. Mercier said this was an inexpensive way for everyone to try wines that would usually be outside of their everyday wine budget. Also, since he exported these wines, it allowed him to share what he loves about the region and winery.

We learned that Jura is the rainiest region in France. The winery produces organic wines using a natural wild fermented process that creates lively, vibrant wines.

The first wine we tried was the Trousseau, a bright, fresh and juicy red wine. The colour was a light, bright red. Mercier described the flavour as a glossy berry with superb viscosity and a creaminess from the bacteria. He recommended drinking this wine while it was young. This bottle wouldn’t last a week in my household.

Next was the Pinot Noir. As Mercier took a sip, he shook his head in amazement and exclaimed, “Dang! This is a good wine!” He informed us this wine is similar to a Burgundy. He went into detail about the grape and the vines, but I lost focus because I started feeling a little tipsy and I stopped taking notes.

One of my favourite wines is the Chardonnay Les Molates. According to Mercier, this is the most planted vine at the winery. He stated Marnes Blanches uses the whole stems and clusters of grapes in the fermentation process, which acts as a channel to filter the juice. As a result, the lattice creates a clean, fresh juice that retains its acidity.

I loved how the chardonnay danced on my tongue. Mercier mentioned this wine drinks like a classic burgundy, but at half price. He said this wine was stupidly good, with surreal value. I bought a bottle to share with Wonderland and Double 07.

My second favourite wine was the Savagnin En Jensillard. I almost passed out from the heady smell of this wine. What a pretty, intense aroma! If I could bottle up infatuation, it would taste like the Savagnin En Jensillard. Mercier said this wine would pair with a Szechuan dish or spicy Thai food. I also bought this bottle for my upcoming dinner party.

Next up was the Chardonnay Les Molates. Mercier noted this variety was indigenous to Jura. A founder grape, the vine flowers early and ripens late while retaining its acidity. The result is a freshness similar to jasmine and stone fruit.

Our second last wine was the Chardonnay Sous Voille. This wine smelled like a sherry or port. Mercier mentioned this it was hard to describe, and often people are put off if they can’t put into words the flavour of the wine.

The last wine we tried was the Vin de Paille, a sweet, dry wine. He mentioned that some of his guests claim they don’t like sweet wines, but will drink soda and junk food.

Many of the wines we tried were available in quantities of three or five. I asked Mercier if they only had three bottles to sell and five customers who want them, who gets them? He responded it was first come, first serve. I would not describe myself as an aggressive person, but at that moment, I decided to jump up and sprint across the room, much like a quarterback or wide receiver. The heart wants what it wants, and I desired those wines.

I am going to make these Vine Arts events a regular part of my schedule. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than learning about delicious wines taught by a passionate and non-pretentious wine guide. Hitting the Sauce gives Mercier two phat thumbs up.

Bars/Lounges · Fusion · Seafood · Special Occasion

Orchard Restaurant

Kournikova, Betty, and Québecois dropped by my house before our dinner at Orchard Restaurant. Betty is the latest addition to our monthly dinner club, referred by her best friend, Kournikova. We started off with champagne and then a bottle of my favourite red wine from Burrowing Owl.

L dropped us off and encouraged us to take our time, as he planned to watch a big match on PPV. I knew that was code for “be quiet when you guys come back home. I paid to watch this fight.” Unfortunately for him, we came home and partied on well past his bedtime. For this post, let’s listen to “Material Girl”.

Orchard is a gorgeous restaurant, resplendent with high ceilings, cascading plants and a variety of chandeliers. In terms of impressive digs, I’d say Orchard and Major Tom lead the pack in Calgary.

We each started off with a cocktail. Kournikova, Betty and I ordered From Shelter with Love ($15). Kournikova mentioned the passion fruit in the cocktail reminded her of the guava mimosas in Hawaii.

Our server told us about a bin end sale of French Sauvignon Blanc ($40). What a steal! I enjoyed this bottle as I found the wine smooth and not tart like I find to be the case for many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.

Betty informed me that her favourite food is Beef Tartare ($18), so of course, we had to order it. The lighting in the restaurant is dark, so when I mistakenly scooped up all the cranberry mustard, I mentioned the beef tasted oddly sweet. Betty laughed and pointed out what I was eating was beets and not beef.

Kournikova and I both loved the Grilled Humboldt Squid ($16). The squid was toothsome and so expertly cooked; it made me think of Chef James Water version at Klein and Harris. The salad was delicious, bright with citrusy orange notes. I thought each unique ingredient in this dish worked – the salsa verde, green olives, and lemon. I would order this again.

Québecois and I enjoyed the Beet and Burrata ($15). The Italian burrata was fresh and creamy. I liked the sweet, savoury and fragrant combination of the beets, hazelnuts, and orange. Québecois enjoyed the crunchy burst of hazelnuts, and Kournikova mentioned she liked the smoky pesto.

My favourite appetizer was the Eggplant and Maitake ($15). I thought the mix of the soy glaze, mushrooms, and eggplant was insanely delicious. I would order the eggplant again as well.

We wanted to try the Miso Maple Cured Sablefish ($38). However, on this night, Icelandic cod was used instead of sablefish. The fish was soft and covered in a delicate, buttery sauce. Kournikova and Québecois raved about the juicy bok choy.

I was pleasantly surprised with the Ocean Cioppino ($36), as I’m generally not impressed with this dish at other restaurants. The scallops were so fat and sweet, I thought it was just as good or even better than the scallops at Hawthorn Dining Room. The prawns were large with a delectable crunchy texture. The mussels and clams tasted fresh and were perfectly cooked. I also loved the rich flavour of the marinara sauce. I would order the cioppino again.

Kournikova loves a good duck, so we shared the Bougie Duck Breast ($35). The duck meat was flavourful but a little chewy. Everyone was a fan of the Israeli couscous. The sauce and couscous were creamy and silky smooth.

Betty picked out two desserts for us to share – the White Chocolate Tiramisu ($11) and Rocher Chocolate Cake ($11). The chocolate shell was hard and then quickly melted in your mouth. The tiramisu was soft and creamy, with a texture similar to semi-melted ice cream. Wowee – both were so good; I was scraping the sides of the dish to get every last drop.

We all enjoyed our experience at Orchard. The food, service and ambience were top-notch. Hitting the Sauce gives Orchard two phat thumbs up.

Seafood · Special Occasion

Von Der Fels – The Last Supper

After July 31, Von Der Fels will be no more. Lovegastrogirl and I had to dine one last time before chef Douglas King‪ and owner Will Trow move on to greener pastures to The Ranchmen’s Club. For this post, let’s listen to “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer.

I’m going to miss Von Der Fels for the wines. This is the only place in the city where I’m impressed with the wines by the glass. I’m normally a red wine drinker but due to the heat, I wanted to try a glass of white. Our server recommend Miser Riesling 2020 ($16). This one was lovely – I enjoyed how the wine sparkled on my tongue. However, my favourite wine of the night was De Collette 2019 ($18). There was just something soft and mellow about it that made me want to keep on sipping.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The only reservation I was able to score was at 8:45 p.m. I couldn’t wait that long to eat and as a result, I was full when I arrived. However, we had to order food because you can’t come here and not eat. The food is just too good to pass up.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Our first dish was the Crispy Pork Belly with Lettuce Wraps ($43). The fragrance of the smoky sweetness of the pork was intoxicating. The crunchy fat on the pork belly reminds of me of Peking duck, but with a more complex flavour profile. I liked how the pickled cucumbers and fresh mint help to cut into the richness of the pork belly and sauces.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The second dish we tried was the Miso Sablefish with Tempura Shrimp ($49). Holy mackerel, this dish is a visual stunner. I felt like my eyes were eating as well. There was so much fried goodness in this plate that I felt giddy just looking at it. I could literally feel my inner fat kid transfer out of my body to hug this dish.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Each layer of the artichoke was silky soft, drenched in a light citrusy matsutake beurre blanc sauce. The shrimp was delightful – the batter was as light as tempura. My favourite part of the dish was the miso sablefish. The fish was so tender and flaky, with an incredible buttery texture. I would order this again but I can’t unless I become a member of The Ranchmen’s Club.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

As a parting gift, Lovegastrogirl brought a bottle of champagne for the staff to enjoy. When her hubby Gpomp dropped us off at the restaurant, he asked me now that Von Der Fels is no longer assessable by the general public, what other restaurant could offer a similar experience? There’s only a handful of restaurants I have frequented in Calgary, so based on my limited exposure, and in terms of food, consistency, wine, service and value, I would say Sukiyaki House and Klein & Harris.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

I have to talk to L about getting a membership at The Ranchmen’s Club. There’s a stellar negotiation course at the Haskayne School of Business that I’m considering taking to help me with my persuasion skills. Perhaps the mere threat of going back to school will encourage L to explore the new happenings occurring at The Ranchmen’s Club now that Douglas and Will have taken over the culinary reins.

Photo credit: Von Der Fels

I’ll always remember Von Der Fels as the spot to bring friends and family. This was a restaurant that you could depend on to consistently deliver, visit after visit. I wish the owner and chef the very best in their new roles and future at The Ranchmen’s Club.

Burgers · Pizza · Restaurants

Iron Goat Pub and Grill – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Karplop, H and I went for a hike on a looped trail at Ptarmigan Cirque. On the hike, I walked ahead of Karplop but I think the next time I’ll follow from the rear. Every photo she took of me included a clear view of my behind. I’ve never seen so many pictures of my butt.

For this post, I wanted to play “Back That Azz Up” by Juvenile or “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot. However, after the second stern message from my father regarding the use of profanity in my blog, I’ll just play “Nameless, Faceless” by Courtney Barnett.

Ptarmigan Cirque is described as a moderate trail but I recommend wearing hiking shoes. I slid a couple of times and each time I let out an embarrassing loud scream. I could hear hikers around me call out to see if anyone was hurt.

We stopped by a peaceful meadow area to rest and saw goats feeding on top of the mountain. The views of the mountains and little waterfalls were so beautiful, I vowed to start exploring more of the area in the future. 

Photo credit: Karplop

After our hike, we stopped by the nearby lakes. When I took Karplop’s photo, she told me that Linda Olsen, the news anchor for Global, taught her group how to pose. Hand on right hip to stabilize, put weight on the right leg, put left leg forward, chin out and smile. I tried Olsen’s tips and I did look better than usual.

Photo Credit: Karplop

By the time 3:00 p.m. rolled around, we were ready for a bite. I suggested Iron Goat Pub and Grill as neither of us have been before. I was impressed with the safety standards and service. Before we were allowed to enter, the hostess asked us a series of questions regarding our health. My temperature was taken and lastly, my name and phone number were recorded. Once at our table, I saw staff constantly sanitize the tables, which were generously spaced apart.

Service was excellent. Lucy was personable and her genuinely friendly demeanour instantly put us in a celebratory mood. I was happy with Lucy’s wine recommendation. I asked for a white wine that was neither sweet nor oaky. Lucy recommended Sacchetto Pinot Grigio (6 ounce $9, 9 ounce $14). With the sun shining down on our table, I found my wine light and fresh. As H is only 11 years old, he stuck to a Grizzly Paw Pop Cream Soda ($4).

Karplop and I shared the Ahi Tuna and Wonton Nachos ($19) and the Coconut Shrimp Salad ($20). Lucy was kind enough to offer to split the salad for us since we were sharing. Unlike most non-Asian restaurants, I could actually taste the ponzu in the ahi tuna. I enjoyed the process of putting the charred pineapple salsa and greens onto the crisp wonton wrappers. Karplop liked how there was enough ahi tuna for each bite.

The coconut shrimp salad was tasty. There was a sweetness in the coconut batter and a pleasant crunch to the jumbo shrimp. There was a tad too much dressing on the greens, so next time, I would ask for it on the side. The avocado and charred corn and bean salsa went well with the fresh corn chips.

H didn’t know what he wanted to eat so Karplop ordered him a Kids Pasta with an order of steamed broccoli ($12). I noticed the big chunks of parmesan cheese shavings and thought it was pretty gourmet for a kid. H liked his creamy pasta so much, he wanted another serving. Karlpop told him to eat his steamed vegetables first and if he was still hungry, she would order him another dish. After he ate his broccoli he wasn’t hungry anymore. Mom knows best.

Near the end of the meal, H dumped his soda into his mom’s drink. She chided him and then sniffed her glass. “H, did you backwash?” He smiled and nodded. Alarmed, I leaned over and said slowly, “If anyone ever wasted my wine, I would be very angry.” Sometimes you need to establish boundaries early to prevent the potential for future miscommunication. Karplop confirmed that H poured his soda into her empty wine glass. Smart kid.

Photo credit: Karplop

I would go back to Iron Goat Bar and Grill. The view is scenic and the safety standards is one of the best I’ve seen during COVID-19. What really made the meal was the service. You know how a beautiful outdoor setting can make wine taste better than it actually is? Courteous service can make a nice meal into a very enjoyable experience. Hitting the Sauce gives Lucy two fat thumbs up.

Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Azzurri Pizzeria – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Karplop and I met up for pizza night at her place. As she lives near all the Italian stores, we stopped by the Italian Super Market so I could stock up on some staples. For this post, let’s listen to “And She Was” by Talking Heads.

As we were shopping, Karplop pointed out Rio Mare tuna is the only canned tuna Miss Foodie will eat. Dammit Karplop, why did you have to go and say that? Now I had to buy it. Seriously, Miss Foodie should create her own stamp and start labeling restaurants and food products so customers know it was Miss Food approved.

When we went to order our pizzas to go, Karplop informed me that Miss Foodie only orders the Cotto e Funghi ($24) at Azzurri Pizzeria. Again Karplop? You know how impressionable I am. Of course I changed my order from my beloved Ten Pizza ($25) to the mushroom pizza. Karplop ordered the Italia ($26) and said we could share both pizzas.

While we waited outside on the patio, Karplop mentioned several times that it would be best to eat the pizzas straightaway because the crust is crispier. However, we decided to take our pizzas to go because we had wine at her place. When we got back, Karplop rushed to lift the lids up and fanned the pizzas to help with the condensation.

I thought the mixed mushroom pizza was a subtle combination of delicate flavours and textures. The prosciutto was so light and clean it reminded me of the deli sliced ham my parents would buy for our sandwiches. The goat cheese was smooth and soft with a little tartness to it. The mushrooms were earthy and with a prominent aroma.

Karplop’s sausage pizza was the opposite of the mushroom pizza.  The homemade Innis and Gunn Italian sausage was juicy and spicy. The zesty tang of the San Marzano tomato sauce was dominant. I enjoyed the crunch of the red caramelized onions and the strong flavours of the Genoa sausage, which rounded out this hearty pie. Between the two pies, I have to say I preferred the robustness of the sausage pizza over the refined flavours of the mushroom pie.

I can see why Karplop was so focused on preserving the integrity of the crust. I appreciate the thinness of the dough and the big air pockets within the crust. I particularly liked the charred bits and the chewy texture of the bread. Azzurri only used “00” flour and the dough is hand stretched, tossed, then baked in a 900 degree Marra Forni brick oven.

I told Karplop that I read a Google review by a customer who complained the crust was burnt and she had to pick off the black pieces. Karplop laughed and said that is the way its supposed to be and the charred bits doesn’t taste burnt. She wondered why the customer wasn’t aware that this was a specific style of pizza making. I was tempted to quote Biggie Smalls in the Google review and add, ” … and if you don’t know, now you know.”

If you are a pizza lover and enjoy quality over quantity, check out Azzurri Pizzeria. This place is something special. And if you got a beef with the style of pizza they make, think twice before posting a negative review because you are going to get burned. Hitting the Sauce gives Azzurri two fat thumbs up.

 

Italian · Restaurants · Special Occasion

Cotto Italian – COVID-19 edition

L and I are eating out more frequently to support our favourite restaurants during the COVID pandemic. On Sunday, we ordered a three-course takeout meal from Cotto Italian Comfort Food . For $29 a person, we were given a large Caesar salad, two slices of Parmesan garlic toast, a big pan of porcini truffle mushroom risotto with grana cheese, and two pots of tiramisu.

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 2.53.38 PM

When I saw that Cotto was making risotto, I instantly thought of a scene from Big Night, when an American woman orders seafood risotto and fails to understand the tradition and craftmanship behind the dish. Upset that the risotto doesn’t look as how she expected, her husband suggests she order a side of spaghetti and meatballs. For this post, let’s listen to “Oh Marie” by Louis Prima.

Cotto is offering 30% off all their wines. I asked Fiona, the owner and wife of Chef Giuseppe, for a wine that would pair with the food. She recommended 2016 Giuseppe Campagnola Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico Superiore ($42). I found the wine smooth and silky. L thought it was well-balanced and an easy to drink wine. I agree, it was hard to cut myself off after my second glass.

wine

L doesn’t normally like Caesar salads but he’s a fan of Cotto’s version. He liked that there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of garlic. I loved the tartness of the sun-dried tomatoes and the feathery crumbs of grana cheese. The salad dressing was refreshing and helped cut into the richness of the risotto.

two dishes

The garlic bread was decadent, generously layered with butter, parmigiano cheese and garlic. The bread was crusty on the outside and the crumb – the inner part of bread –  was soft and delicate.

pan risoto

I wasn’t expecting such a large portion of risotto. We had enough for lunch the next day. When I lifted the risotto from the pan, I could see the fine strands of cheese stretching out like a cobweb. The grain was cooked to an al dente, deeply infused with the flavour of porcini mushrooms and truffle.

plate

The smell and taste of the truffle wasn’t overpowering. The porcini mushrooms were silky smooth but there was still a nice toothsome crunch to it. The best part of the risotto  was the contrast between the rich, earthy cheesiness and the greens.  The taste of the spring onions and the pea shoots made my tongue tingle with pleasure. This was the first risotto I’ve tried and would order again.

risotto plate

Along with risotto, this was the best tiramisu I’ve consumed. The soft layers of Kahlua espresso lady fingers and mascarpone cream were light and sweet. My favourite part of the dessert was the smell of the cocoa power and amaretto. It reminded me of a frozen dessert I would have as a child, only occasionally, because it was an expensive treat.

tiramisu

On our drive to Kensington, I was shocked to see the number of businesses that are permanently shut down. I feel like there’s a war going on, but instead of guns and the military, it’s an invisible virus wiping out livelihoods in Calgary.

support

Do you want to help the restaurant industry in Calgary? If you have the financial means,  YYCTAKEOUT is asking Calgarians to show their support by joining #YYCTakeoutTuesday and ordering a pick-up meal. If you can’t afford to eat out, consider retweeting or sharing an Instagram story from @yyctakeoutspecials.

Cotto Italian Comfort Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Chinese · Restaurants

Comedy Night at The Tea House – COVID-19 edition

I love stand-up comedy. I’m always rewatching Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari and Ally Wong’s Netflix shows. When I learned that The Tea House features Comedy Night every Thursday, I was keen to check it out.

red lantern

Following my coronavirus music playlist, I’m going to pick another song that soothes my nerves. For this post, let’s listen by Violin Concerto No.2 “Allegro” by composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

I arrived earlier than my friend and scored some seats at the bar overlooking the stage. From 6:00 – 7:00 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday, the The Tea House offers $7 wines, and deals on select appetizers.

menu

I wanted to try the Half Roast Duck ($35). Considering how much duck we received, this dish is well-priced. I was surprised to see the portion was big enough for a meal for two. The duck itself was silky and tender. This is higher quality duck than I get at my local Chinese BBQ joint.

duck

The butter lettuce was so perfect looking I felt guilty eating it. I requested extra lettuce, as Chen and I didn’t want to fill up with the steamed rice. The rice itself was properly made – each grain was firm yet sticky.

duck lettuce

The condiments were top-notch. We received fresh basil, ginger-scallion peanut sauce and a lovely seasoning salt. I really liked the salt concoction, as it was subtle and accented the flavour of the duck. I would order this again.

duck again
I planned on returning to try more of the food because I posted this review. However, I thought I’d post this early to spread the word about supporting local businesses through these tough economic times.

wine

If you can afford to, consider buying a gift certificate at your local eatery. I bought a $50 gift certificate for The Teahouse and I received two complimentary tickets for any upcoming comedy night. I plan on picking up a couple more gift certificates at Cotto Italian Kitchen, Sukiyaki House, and Pure Kitchen Asian Kitchen & Bar. Are there any restaurants you would like to support?

Screen Shot 2020-03-13 at 4.56.25 PM

PS – Thanks Chen for the meal, company and photos. Can’t wait for your next visit to Calgary. I’ll take you to one of Hitting the Sauce’s favourite restaurants.

The Teahouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Fusion · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Nights & Weekends – Pop-Up Restaurant and Bar

It’s my birthday week! L picked me up from the airport and told me I had one hour to get ready for our dinner reservation. His colleague M emailed him an article about a pop-up restaurant – Nights & Weekends. What interested L was that co-chefs Bern Glatz and Nick Berenyi collectively worked at Ten Foot Henry, Anju, Mercato, Bar Von Der Fels, and Una Pizza + Wine. He figured since we like all those restaurants, we would enjoy Nights & Weekends. As always, L is correct. For this post, let’s listen to “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by The Beattles.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Nights & Weekends takes over the space at Shiki Menya. The restaurant is dimly lit, with the exception of the glow of the pink neon sign. The tunes are rocking and the vibe is intimate.

kitchen

Initially, I was skeptical when the bartender informed us they only sell four wines – bubbles, rosé, white and red ($12 glass, $48 bottle). After sampling three of the four wines, I realized you don’t need a large selection if each bottle is well chosen. Kudos to Katie, an employee from Vine Arts who selects all the wine for Nights & Weekends.

bubbles

L ordered a pint of Asahi ($7) while I requested a glass of French bubbles ($12). I found the bubbles tight and clean tasting.

eggs

We ordered two servings of the Tamago ($4). The egg was cool and soft. As I slurped the egg back, it felt like I was eating an oyster. I enjoyed the restrained use of black sesame and chili oil. However, L’s portion received all the scallions. Luck of the draw.

egg close upThe Waygu Beef Tartare ($14) is a winner. L appreciated how the focus of dish was the meat rather than competing flavour of secondary ingredients. The beef tasted supremely fresh. I didn’t even want to use the potato chip because it would take away from the flavour of the waygu. As I chewed, I savoured the texture of the beef.  Oh so good.

tartare

The bartender recommended I try the Russine (2017) rosé with the wagyu tartare. He described this wine as a winter rosé. I was reluctant to try it because too often, I find rosé tart, sweet or fake tasting. He didn’t steer me wrong. The wine was heavy for a rosé and a little dry.  I would order this again.

rose

The Poached Tiger Prawn ($10) was the star of the night. This sandwich was off the hook. The kewpie sauce was light and just enough to bind and coat all the ingredients together. The pea shoots helped to cut into the mayo. The tobiko added a pop of the sea.

prawn

The prawns were plentiful and sweet. With each bite, proportionally, there was more shrimp than bun. We liked how the bun was squishy and mushable against the crunchy prawns.

brawn bite

The Handmade Pasta ($18) was unique. What I liked was the firmness and bite of the noodles. The combination of the cheese, guancialle (cured meat), dashi, gachujang (Korean red chili paste), mushrooms and nori reminded me a little of Kraft cheese, but in a good way.

psata

I drank one more glass of wine because I was having so much fun and I didn’t want to leave. The Maggiorina Vino Rosso (2018) was interesting. The wine hit my tongue hard but then mellowed out.

red

In my opinion, this little pop-up restaurant competes with the best restaurants I’ve tried in this city and elsewhere. I love it so much, Nights & Weekends is making it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Nights & Weekends two fat thumbs up.

Nights and Weekends Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato