Recently we had a friend, Shana, come to visit us and Canada for the first time. Being ever self conscious hosers, we wondered how on earth we were going to plan activities and meals that would not disappoint a native New Yorker who has a world of top shelf options on her doorstep.
I got it! We’ll battle top shelf with Top Chef! (Canada).
So after a beautiful overnighter in Banff, and a spectacular trio of pizza’s at The Bear Street Tavern, we set off to Calgary.
The rumours are all true, Charcut is indeed f’ing great. Top Chef Canada 3rd place finisher Connie DeSouza was on holidays, but her partner chef John Jackson was kicking enough ass in the kitchen for 2.
We arrived on a rainy monday for lunch and upon being seated, we began to let go of the stress of parking in downtown Calgary at noon.
We started with Slow Roasted Heirloom Beets, House-made soft goats cheese, mint, and basil. Three thumbs up from our table of 3. Nice tender beets, and fantastic house made goat cheese. Great start.
Shana ordered the Rotisserie Chicken Salad Sandwich, with pancetta, arugula, and DeSousa family piri piri aioli. Another 3 thumbs up around the table. Creamy, tasty, and paired perfectly with house made foccocia bread.
My wife Robyn went for the house cured ham and cheese sandwich, on the same fantastic fococcia bread. How can a simple ham and cheese sandwich be the most delicious thing at the table? Seriously, Robyn has been talking about it for over a week since we left. I guess you’ll have to go to Charcut yourself and find out.
The lunch special also came with an organic turkey and barley soup. Since Robyn is not a barley fan, I played good samaritan and helped her out by eating it. Seasoned perfectly, it was a nice light compliment to the heavier components of the lunch. I’m pretty sure I’m due the Order of Canada for helping her with that one.
I went for the Country Sausage with slow cooked Broxburn Farm’s peppers and caramelized onions. It was a good sized portion of nicely spiced sausage, served atop a warm roll (which I found a bit strange and un-needed). As with all of our dishes, mine was served with the most amazing parmesan french fries. The very thinly shaved fresh parmesan was a perfectly salty, rich addition to the perfectly cooked fries.
I was really impressed with the start of our meal and tweeted about it from the table (follow me @baconhound). Chef John saw my tweet and decided to be an all around fantastic guy and send a complimentary Pork Rillttes with crostini and arugula.
I had never eaten a Rillettes before, but I knew it was kind of like a chunky pork pate, served cold. I was a little skeptical of the texture and temperature, but in the end we were all really impressed with the flavour, and savagely emptied the jar of creamy pork-y-ness onto the crostini’s. It was one of my favourite things at the table.
I did get the chance before we left to wander over to the kitchen and introduce myself to John. Seems like a pretty good guy. We chatted mostly about their new Alley Burger Truck, and how overwhelmingly popular it’s proved to be in their first couple weeks. I suggested that we may be packing a couple cars full of hungry Edmontonians and coming down to sample Calgary’s bevy of new food trucks one weekend soon.
Of course we couldn’t visit Charcut without getting a bag of warm cookies to go, after our post-gorging/ pre-heading out into the miserable rain, coffee. The chocolate chip cookies were to die for. What is it about warm chocolate chip cookies that turns normal, law abiding people into savage, cookie- thieving monsters?
Often hyped restaurants fail to live up to the expectations, so the fact Charcut managed to over-deliver on our expectations is very impressive. Especially considering we didn’t even get to sample anything from the Rotisserie. Heck, even our New Yorker was impressed.
I can’t wait to return and try out the dinner menu.