Monthly Archives: April 2014

Calgary Poutine Crawl 2014

I’d heard about it on social media in past years, but it was only this year that it was really big on my radar. It had piqued my interest in the past, but I always thought that it sounded just a little too crazy. I mean, eating poutine all day? That’s just a recipe for disaster and an extremely bad case of indigestion, isn’t it? But then I came to my senses and remember how much I love poutine, and how much I love being a part of cool food events going on in our city, and decided that I had to buy tickets. I was one of the lucky 60-some that scored a spot on the crawl (it sold out in ten seconds!!) and brought my fellow foodie friend Alanna along for the gravy-filled ride.

We started our day at Wurst, one of my favourite places for a some late night table dancing and giant beer drinking. I did grab a Stanley Park Pilsner, but only a pint, as I needed to save room in my stomach for all the carbs that I would inevitably consume. Wurst’s poutine had peas, duck confit, a speck sauce, and a little truffle oil to go along with the traditional fries and cheese curds. This one was one of my favourites. The fries were well cooked – crispy, but not overly so, the cheese curds were salty and squeaky, and the truffle oil added that little depth of flavour to put it over the top. I appreciated the small portion size they presented us with as pacing was definitely key on this day.

Wurst poutine

After we had all gobbled up our first course, we hopped on two busses, complete with stripper poles and a sweet sound system, and headed over to National, where Anju‘s Roy Oh was serving his Korean-inspired poutine. Being a lover of all things Korean, and especially all things Anju, this was the stop I was the most excited for. Roy brought us chewy rice cakes, which acted as the fries, with cheese curds, gochujang gravy, lardons, and a little bit of cucumber to add freshness. This was by far the least traditional of all of the poutines, and it may have been that creativity that made me love it so much. Well… it also might have been the gochujang – any dishes that incorporates my favourite condiment of the moment gets full marks from me. As much as I love eating Roy’s food, it always makes me a little sad, too, because I don’t know when I’ll get to have it next. I am chomping at the bit for the opening of Anju 2.0!

Anju poutine

Our next stop was Naina’s Kitchen. I was excited to visit this unassuming strip-mall spot, as I had heard about their amazing stuffed burgers (which I still want to go back and try!). They presented us with a caramelized onion and meatball poutine, with a sweeter gravy that had hints of maple syrup. Although the meatballs were yummy and the gravy was unique, this was probably my least favourite poutine of the day, mostly because the fries were undercooked. The portion was also huge, and while I appreciated their generosity, it took up a bit more room in my stomach than I would have liked.

Naina's poutine

We’d reached the halfway mark, and I was definitely starting to feel a little bit weighed down by the gravy-soaked portions we’d had so far. But we were in it for the long haul, so onward we went! Our next destination was The Libertine, a Steven Avenue pub, where we were greeted with cute little boxes of fried chicken poutine with pork belly and coleslaw. There was no shortage of pork among the various offerings, but this pork belly stood above and beyond them all – it was out of this world delicious! I appreciated the freshness that the coleslaw added, but I felt like the big piece of fried chicken was unnecessary and a bit out of place. It had gotten a bit soggy from sitting on top of the poutine and the two just didn’t seem to marry well together, in my mind. The pork belly more than made up for this, though, and I did enjoy the poutine as a whole.

Libertine poutine

At this point I was so full that I suggested that we walk the three blocks to downtownfood just so that we could get a bit of exercise and fresh air to counteract the heaviness of everything we had eaten. It wasn’t much of a jaunt, but it was still nice to get the blood flowing a little bit before round five. downtownfood was the 2013 Poutine Crawl winner, and they delivered again this time around. They started us off with an amazing lemon sorbetto that was meant to serve as a palate cleanser “to get rid of the taste of all of the gross poutines you’ve eaten” according to the chef. As weird as it is to say this after an event that was supposed to be all about the fries and gravy, this sorbetto may have been my favourite thing I ate all day. The flavour was perfectly tart, and the texture was silky smooth. downtownfood certainly scored some points with me for that extra little touch. It was soon time for the main event, though. The servers uncovered bowls of steaming hot fries right at our table, and we dug into housemade cheese curds, duck confit gravy, smoked mushrooms, and, of course, bacon. The gravy had amazing depth of flavour, my only complaint was that it was a little too thin, or perhaps there was a little too much of it, almost turning the dish into poutine soup. I quickly forgot about that tiny shortcoming, though, when they brought out macarons that were made to look like mini burgers. They were so adorable I could barely eat them, and they were delicious too!

dtf poutine

Finally it was time for our last stop, and a reprieve from my crying stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every bite I took, but I was ready to lay off the potatoes for a while. We got off the bus at Kensington’s Oak Tree Tavern, a pub that always has a fun atmosphere and a great craft brew selection. We were greeted with a free beer courtesy of Wild Rose, a pretty good welcome, if you ask me. Oak Tree’s poutine was a vegetarian offering featuring a delectable sage gravy. I wasn’t too upset to have a break from bacon, but the cheese curds were a bit lacking – they were too small and missing their characteristic squeaky chew.

Oak Tree Tavern poutine

When all was said and done, downtownfood took the Calgary Poutine Crawl title as voted on by all of the participants. Anju was my pick, but dtf’s was my favourite of the more traditional poutines, so I certainly wasn’t upset about that choice (the lemon sorbetto didn’t hurt either). To be honest, there’s no way I could have been upset about the choice of winner after such a delicious day. Thanks to Karen Richards for organizing such a fun event! I’ll have my speedy mouse finger at the ready next year in hopes of getting a spot for a second time around.

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A family dinner

The spread

One of the things that brings me the most joy in life is sharing a meal with others. Food is one of my greatest passions, and, to me, there is nothing like sitting down at a table with family or some good friends and revelling in the shared glory of a delicious bite. I love going out and trying new restaurants and discovering hidden gems in the Calgary food scene and beyond, but I get the most satisfaction out of having people around our table in our little house and serving food that we have made. It’s a lot of work to make a meal for a big group, but the effort is worth it when it comes time to enjoy it.

Appies are always necessary

Appies are always necessary

This past Sunday we had my family over for an easter/passover/togetherness celebration. My sister has just arrived back in town for the summer after finishing her semester in Victoria and my brother is also back at home after having worked at Revelstoke for the summer. It was a lot of fun to have all five of us (plus Zevi) laughing and chatting and enjoying each other’s company. There was even a singalong to Tiny Dancer with me on piano thrown in there for good measure.

The fam jam

The fam jam

Back to the food. I feel very lucky to be married to someone who enjoys cooking and eating. I won’t say that he loves it as much as I do, because my love for food borders on obsession (most of my reading material consists of food blogs, cookbooks and Bon Appetit magazine), but it is a passion that we can share, and for that I am very grateful. We worked together to prepare the meal we served on Sunday, and being able to share the work with him not only lightens the load immeasurably, but it also strengthens our bond. I think we make a pretty darn good team!

We started the meal with a traditional matzo ball soup. This is something that I first had made for me by Zevi’s grandmother, so it was really special to make it ourselves for the first time. There was a lot of time spent waiting while the broth bubbled and simmered, but that patience was well worth it, as we were rewarded with a subtly flavoured soup that was so much better than anything you can find in a can or a carton. Our matzo balls were fluffy and tender, and I would call it a pretty great showing for rookie chicken soup makers. I think Baba would be proud.

The soup

The soup in process. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of the finished product.

The main course was brisket with crispy smashed potatoes and a simple salad. We made a home made bbq sauce for the brisket that really stole the show. If you haven’t made these smashed potatoes, I’m telling you, you need to drop everything and do it NOW! Crunchy on the outside and silky smooth on the inside, they’re everything you could ever want in a potato. I’ll be hard pressed to make them any other way now! Zevi made a spicy mayo with Franks hot sauce, chili powder, and garlic powder that was the perfect counterpoint to the salty starch nuggets.

Smashed potatoes ready for the oven

Smashed potatoes ready for the oven

Every time I have people over for a meal I am reminded of how rewarding it is to spend time preparing something for someone and then watching them enjoy the fruits of your labour (and enjoying it with them, of course). There are always lots groceries to buy and veggies to chop and dishes to do, but, in my mind, knowing that you did that work and seeing it all come to life makes it all the more worth it.

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