The Chef's Tasting Experience at Muse

>> Wednesday, March 27, 2013


It’s always a treat to do a Chef’s tasting menu and I’ve been fortunate enough to have enjoyed a few outstanding tastings around the world. Calgary is no exception though. This city has always had hidden gems that showcase amazing tasting menus of their own. One of those places is Muse in Kensington and I was lucky enough to have been a guest at the unveiling of their newly reinvented Chef’s tasting menu earlier this week.

The evening kicked off with glasses of prosecco, freshly shucked oysters served with a zingy minognette and an amazing cheese and crackers (and beet chips) platter in their upstairs bar area. It was nice to reacquaint myself with the different niches within Muse and rediscover the space.

Once dinner service was ready, we were all escorted down to the lower dining area where they gave us a brief explanation of the chef’s tasting menu we would be sampling that evening and so began our journey. Starting with a lovely amuse bouche which consisted of honey marinated pears with crispy chicken skin immersed in a velvety bisque made from concentrated chicken broth finished with a rutabaga cream. A delicious beginning to the evening, which got everyone excited for what was to come.


The first course – Hamachi, a fish often found in sushi restaurants and better known as yellowtail, was served sashimi style after being cured in coriander and lime. The plate was garnished with red and black radishes, red chili’s and togarashi spice to keep with the Japanese theme. The fish was very lightly flavoured and extremely fresh, pretty amazing since we live in land locked Calgary. The wine pairing for the course was the Joie Farm Noble Blend White Wine. Sweet fruit notes reminiscent of a reisling, the light tannins and bright finish was a nice accompaniment to the delicate hamachi.

Our second course – Potato, reminded me of a refined breakfast with diced potatoes, green peas topped with a perfectly sous vide egg, along side bacon and black truffles. Cutting in to the egg and seeing the yolk ooze perfectly over the potatoes made me excited for that first bite and it was spectacular! A bit of bacon, potato, egg, topped off with truffles! It was extremely decadent, comforting and very satisfying. It was definitely my favourite dish that evening. The course was paired with a Querciabella Chianti Classico featuring sweet spices and cherry flavours, chiantis are one of my favorite wine varietals. It provided a nice balance between the smokey bacon and the creamy yolky potatoes.


Third course – Sturgeon, a lovely grilled fish course served with beet ribbons, brussel sprouts and a crunchy squid ink cannoli filled with caviar crème fraiche. If that wasn’t enough, the servers then poured a flavourful borscht consommé over top. I really enjoyed the borscht which helped infuse additional flavours in to the sturgeon and added moistness to the dish, preventing the fish from being dry which can often occur when grilling fish. The sturgeon and caviar were both from Vancouver Island and it was nice to see local Canadian products on the menu. The fish was paired with a brut sparking wine from Antech Heritage Cermant de Limoux, light and crisp, it really let the sturgeon shine through, enhancing the flavours without muting the dish.


The fourth course – Lamb, showcased two ways. First with the saddle of lamb cooked wrapped in a bit of lamb fat to provide additional flavours and second a crispy lamb belly served overtop a farinata (chickpea) cake. I was drawn to the rosemary dust that was plated along side the black olive emulsion, it really ignited the dish since lamb and rosemary are a perfect match. The lamb itself was cooked just right, moist and succulent, you could taste the additional flavours provided by cooking the lamb in the fat but it wasn’t greasy or heavy. For this course, we were treated with two wines where we got to compare and contrast the difference in notes and flavours provided by each. The first being J. Boutin Cote Rotie Bonneveaux Syrah and the second was the New Zealand Te Mata Bull Nose Syrah. I preferred the fruitier, New Zealand Syrah. I thought it brought out the lamb a bit more, playing with the gamey meat flavours and providing a light spice. The J.Boutin Syrah was a bit stronger on the oak, with blackberry and plums it had a stronger bolder finish.


Before our fifth course we were treated to a very whimsical Palate Cleanser, a miniature Crab Apple Soda made from Okanagan apples. It was slightly sweet, a bit tart and the bubbles made it extremely refreshing. I definitely could have ordered it as a drink on its own.

Our final course was Chocolate consisting of a creamaux of chocolate (similar to a flourless chocolate cake or chocolate ganache), toasted meringue, lemon gel, coriander and sweet potato sorbet. I was intrigued by the sorbet, prepared by roasting the sweet potatoes then mashing them and turning them in to a sorbet. It had an interesting texture, thicker than your usual ice cream or sorbet. A bit dense but I enjoyed it, reminding me of Asian sticky rice desserts. The chocolate itself was very decadent and slightly bittersweet the perfect pairing to the intensely sweet Brigaldara recioto della Valpolicella Classico – a reduction of valpolicella grapes to produce a sweet red dessert wine.

This tasting menu was definitely a treat and at the end of the journey we were all extremely satisfied (and full!). The whole meal took a little over 3 hours but they’re not meant to be rushed, instead each course is meant to be savoured. It reminded me of all the great meals I’ve had at Muse in the past and I look forward to going back and sampling another tasting menu in this gem of a place.

Muse Restaurant
107 10a St NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 670-6873

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Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt - Grand Opening

>> Thursday, March 21, 2013


Is it odd that after a long day at work I like to wind down the evening with a big….bowl of frozen yogurt (or gelato..or ice cream)?? Basically something nice and cool with just a hint of sweetness, nothing overly heavy or cloyingly sweet. The simple pleasures in life, that’s what I look forward to. So I was pretty excited to find out that Tutti Frutti, a froyo chain, was opening up several locations all throughout Calgary and close to where I live!

I was lucky enough to be one of their guests that got invited to Tutti Frutti’s media night at their new 17th Avenue location, where we got to tour the brand new store and taste the many different flavours of froyo they were featuring. The different flavours served included:

Black Sesame
Peanut Butter

Coconut
Pineapple

Chocolate
Salted Caramel

Lychee
Tart

Blueberry
Strawberry

For those that can’t make up their mind between which flavours to try, aside from trying them all, you can “twist” the two flavours that are in the same yogurt dispenser together (reason behind why I separated the different flavours in to pairs). The flavour duos are matched specifically for that purpose, taking sampling of all the different combos up another notch. With over 70 different flavours, the combinations are endless. Tutti Frutti will be updating their flavours based on demand, so the more you eat the more they’ll change things up! All flavour updates can be found on their facebook page and via twitter (@TFFroyoYYC), so remember to follow them for the latest news. Who knows, maybe they’ll start taking flavour combo suggestions!


What I enjoyed most about froyo is its subtle sweetness. There was just enough to let you satisfy that dessert craving, yet it doesn’t overwhelm you. I enjoyed sampling the different flavours on their own just get a good taste of each. My favorite was the black sesame. It’s really nice to see traditional Asian flavours incorporated in to modern day desserts. There was a nice subtle hint of black sesame which tasted amazing with the coconut (another favorite of mine). The coconut froyo tasted just like the tropical ice cream I had in Hawaii recently, it was very refreshing and reminded me of summer. My third choice was the salted caramel. Normally I find certain caramel desserts to be overwhelmingly sugary, but not this. There was just enough caramel flavouring without overpowering the rest of the froyo in my cup. I can see that some might not thing it’s salted enough for a salted caramel, but I enjoyed it.


To make things even more interesting, there is also a self serve toppings bar, where you can add different yummy treats to your froyo and individualize it even more. My favourites included the chewy mochi balls, especially mixed with the black sesame! The popping pearls were delicious as well and provided a burst of flavour with each bite. There are also fresh fruit, cookie and brownie chunks, for those looking for more traditional toppings.

Froyo (frozen yogurt) is healthier than ice cream since it’s made from yogurt and contains probiotics, but remember it is still considered a treat and should be consumed accordingly and along with a healthy diet. Tutti Frutti also makes quite a few of their froyo flavours from soy, making it gluten free. So those with a gluten allergy or lactose intolerance and vegans can enjoy it too!


The 17th Avenue Tutti Frutti location officially opens this Saturday March 23rd, so be sure to stop by and try a few combinations of your own! Now if only I can convince them to sell take away containers….then I can enjoy it at home too, after a long day of work!

Calgary - 17th Avenue
858 16 ave SW
Calgary, Alberta
T2R 0S9
(403) 460 8846

Calgary - Marlborough Mall - Now Open!
#1464 515 Marlborough Way N.E.
Calgary, Alberta
T2A 7E7

Calgary - Southtrail Crossing - Now Open!
130 Ave Shopping Centre
Calgary, Alberta

Website: www.tfyogurt.ca


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Restaurant Review: Yellow Door Bistro

>> Friday, March 15, 2013


The Big Taste event held annually in March involving many of Calgary’s downtown restaurants recently came to a close. It has always been a great time for people to enjoy the set menus provided by each restaurant to showcase their specialized dishes or unique fare conjured up for the festival. This year was not different and if anything there were quite a few new restaurants that recently opened in downtown that joined in. One of them being Yellow Door Bistro, an updated space that once was known as the restaurant St.Germain. What better time to try something different and sample multiple dishes.

Atmosphere: A funky dining area with splashes of décor inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The room truly transports you beyond Calgary.


Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food and Wine: I wanted to take advantage of the Big Taste menu, but there were items on their regular menu that intrigued us so we decided to sample a bit of both. Before our meals arrived we were served an assortment of housemade breads in flavours like carrot fennel and walnut alongside chewy breadsticks. They were unique and different, plus I am a lover of carbs, so no complaints here!

The Big Taste menu started with a light Heirloom Carrot and Fairwind Farms Gouda Cheese Salad. The flavour of the cheese was very slight and provided extra vibrancy to the dish and really highlighted the freshness of the heirloom carrots and beets, especially when contrasted with the orange cardamom dressing.  From their menu we added the Beef Tenderloin Tartare, which came with lightly toasted brioche slices. I found the tartare to be nicely seasoned, not overly tart especially when there is mustard, capers and pickles all in the mix. The dish was nicely presented as well.


I selected the Braised Lamb Shoulder entrée from the Big Taste menu. The lamb was served over top a creamy corn polenta along side baby vegetables and a savoury jus. My favorite part of this dish was the polenta. It was creamy and full of flavour, I can see why the chef decided to pair it with the lamb. The lamb itself was a bit tougher than what I’m used to, especially using the braising cooking method, but it could be due to the sheer volume of dishes that were leaving the kitchen that night.

My husband had the Seafood Linguine of their regular dinner menu, which included mussels, clams, prawns and squid served in a spicy tomato sauce. It’s not your usual Italian pasta, where the linguine is smothered in sauce and seafood. The dish is very lightly sauced with the seafood presented in a careful manner on the pasta. The linguine itself was a bit over how I normally like my pasta, but not overdone or mushy. It was nicely seasoned and I enjoyed that it was a bit spicy, thereby adding another dimension to the dish.


The Valrhona Chocolate Fondant was served for dessert and a perfect ending to the meal. I really enjoyed the Cocoa Nib Ice Cream and wish I had more of it. The fondant cake itself was warm and soft in the centre, almost to the point of a chocolate lava cake. It felt decadent but wasn’t cloying sweet making it nicely balanced.

We had the Natura Carmenere wine to accompany our beef tartare and lamb dishes. It is a bolder, oaky wine with spicy cocoa notes. I recommend decanting it before drinking to allow the wine to really open up. Once it’s had the opportunity to breathe, you’re able to taste more of the berry undertones of the wine. It is a wine that’s meant to be paired with meat or spicy dishes or else it would overwhelm your palate, especially if enjoying lighter fare like fish.

My Picks: Beef Tenderloin Tartare, Valrhona Chocolate Fondant Cake


Overall: At one point in the evening I remember mentioning to my husband that it no longer felt like we were in Calgary because the décor was so unique. I enjoyed the combination of lounge slash sophistication of the room. The food on their regular menu also looking intriguing, there were several other items we would have liked to sample (drawn to the rabbit dish for some reason ;) ), but were just too stuffed at that point. I’m looking forward to going back once they’ve had a chance to really get in their groove, plus it’ll be nice to see the space again when it’s a little less hectic seeing as the Big Taste event is now over.

Yellow Door Bistro
119 12 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 206-9585
Website: www.yellowdoorbistro.ca

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Restaurant Review: Shikiji Japanese Noodles and Sushi

>> Monday, March 4, 2013



 Seeing how warm it was on Saturday, it was hard to believe that we would literally get a dumped of snow overnight. Honestly, I think the storm moved in and the snow piled up in under an hour! All I wanted to do was curl up in bed and watch movies all day, maybe read a book or two. Nothing was going to make me leave the house…except for a nice hot bowl of steaming noodles in a well seasoned broth. Nothing brings comfort on a cold day more than a nice noodle soup and when I’m craving noodles, I like to hit up Shikiji.

Atmosphere: A charming petite Japanese styled restaurant that usually boasts an impressive line up and a boisterous atmosphere. I suggest going early.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food: Although Shikiji serves an array of items on their menu. I’m usually visiting for their famous ramen noodle bowls. Ramen are traditional egg noodles made by combining flour, salt, water and egg together, which gives it its distinct yellow color. There are traditionally several different flavours of broth which the ramen is served in. At Shikiji you can find both traditional broths such as Soy, Shio (salt soup base) and Miso or the house specials of BBQ Pork (soy soup base) and Chili Goma (sesame base).


My favourite go to is the Chili Goma Ramen noodle bowl. It’s not extremely spicy. Instead there’s only a hint of spice used to add flavour as opposed to the usual burning sensation unlike other cuisines. I’m sure they can make it spicier if you request them to, but I prefer it this way as not to over power the rest of the broth, which is nicely flavoured with sesame goodness. The chewy noodles are topped with a salted ground pork, green onions, shitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots. It’s hearty and my type of comfort food especially when you add the garlic chips provided on the side. They’re crispy and garlicky, the perfect addition to any noodle bowl.

I’ve also had the chance to sample their Miso Ramen bowl which is served with flavourful BBQ pork, corn, bean sprouts, cabbage, carrots, ginger and topped with lots of green onions. Before the noodles are brought to the table they bring out a little saucer of sesame seed where you can grind them up to your own satisfaction. The broth is lighter than the Chili Goma bowl due to its soy base and I enjoy all the vegetables mixed with the noodles as well. Although I do find that sometimes I get overwhelmed by bean sprouts, but just make sure to ask the server to give you less if you’re in the same boat.


If you’re not in the mood for ramen, try other items on their menu soon like their sushi rolls, udon and soba noodle bowls, which are fresh and tasty as well but it’s hard to beat the craving for ramen noodles!

My Pick: Chili Goma Ramen

Overall: A big hot bowl of noodle soup really does warm you up and I’d have to say that I actually think the broth at Shikiji is even better than the ramen noodles houses I visited while I was in Vancouver. Seeing how much the Vancouvrites love their ramen (to the point where they wait upwards of 1 hour in the rain), I might potentially be waging a ramen noodle war and not even know it yet.


Shikiji Japanese Noodles and Sushi
1608 Centre St NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 520-0093
Website: www.shikiji.ca

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