Big Taste Roundup 2013

March 1st – 10th was the Big Taste event in Calgary where foodies unite to dine out at participating downtown restaurants on set menus ranging from $15- 85.  I had the chance to dine out at 4 places with good friend, Peaches and am excited to share them with you.

Manuel Latruwe Belgian Patisserie & Bread Shop

This was our first stop to try out their $15 set lunch menu.  Peaches had called them to make reservations and was told it wasn’t required but when we arrived the place was packed and we were told that reservations were required.  They had decided to start taking reservations after all due to the high demand.  We waited about 10 minutes for a table to become available.

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We started off with their French Onion Soup served in sourdough bread bowl and topped with Gruyere cheese.  The soup was very disappointing.  It was served lukewarm and was very bland.  The soup had a very light onion flavor, not the usual deep caramelized onion and beefy soup that I was used to.  It also took on the taste of the sourdough bread bowl which was slightly unappetizing.

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Next up was the Tomato, bocconcini Di Bufala and basil quiche served with a side salad.  The quiche was tiny – really tiny.  It turns out the chef decided to create a special size for the Big Taste as they were afraid people could not finish their normal small size.  The flavors of the quiche was good though.  The crust was buttery and flaky and the egg custard was light and flavorful.  The mustard dressing on the side salad was refreshing and helped to cleanse the palate.

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The dessert course was, Profiteroles with Madagascar vanilla ice cream and dark chocolate sauce.  The profiteroles were good and I enjoyed the vanilla ice cream center.  Peaches was right in wishing that the dark chocolate sauce was hot though.  That would’ve warmed up the profiteroles and made it that more delicious.  I wished they used a different serving dish as there was no way to actually cut the profiteroles in half even though they provided a knife.

Service was lacking, partially because it was so busy and I don’t think they anticipated that.  Overall, this Big Taste experience was disappointing.

Manuel Latruwe Belgian Patisserie & Bread Shop

1333 1 St SE
Calgary, AB  T2G 5L1

Manuel Latruwe Belgian Patisserie & Bread Shop on Urbanspoon

Blink Restaurant & Bar

My next Big Taste experience was dinner at Blink Restaurant & Bar to try their $35 dinner menu.

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We started off with the complimentary bread and butter.  The bread was really good – chewy, nice crust and fluffy interior.

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My appetizer of choice was the Twice baked souffle with aged Canadian cheddar, spinach and parmesan.  I’ve had their twice baked souffle about 2 years ago and this one tasted even better than it did then.  It was light, fluffy, cheesy and very satisfying.  I thoroughly enjoyed this dish and did not feel the least bit heavy afterwards.  They have a version with crab on their regular menu which I’m very interested in trying.

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The main course was the Diamond Willow top sirloin of beef with potato roesti, savoy cabbage, beet & vodka vinaigrette I just loved the colors on this plate!  The beef was cooked via sous vide and was very tender.  The potato roesti was a nice accompaniment – crispy on the outside but the savoy cabbage felt a little out of place.  I loved the beet and vodka vinaigrette and thought that paired really well with the beef.

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I had the English style sticky toffee with butterscotch sauce for dessert and was very happy with my choice.  The sticky toffee was moist, chewy and tasted of dates – just want I wanted.  It paired really well with the warm butterscotch sauce.

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Peaches went with the Valrhona chocolate semifreddo with orange marmalade and hazelnut praline The chocolate semifreddo was still quite frozen so it was difficult to cut into it.  It had a very light chocolate flavor so I felt that the orange marmalade overpowered it.  The hazelnut praline added a nice crunch factor.

Our server, Marie (who was also my server 2 years ago) was attentive and warm throughout our meal and I really enjoyed this Big Taste experience.

Blink Restaurant & Bar

111 8 Ave SW
Calgary, AB T2G 5J2

Blink Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Ox & Angela

I’m a huge fan of “family style” dining being Chinese and all.  I mean, that’s what I grew up with and I love being able to sample and taste many different dishes rather than trying to decide on one.  I was really excited to try Ox & Angela’s $35 dinner menu and sample their small dishes.

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Upon entering the restaurant, you can clearly see that it’s divided into 2 different spaces with one side being very dimly lit and the other more brighter.  The dimly lit side is where the bar is situated and is also known as the “ox”.  We sat on the “Angela” side and I enjoyed looking at all of the different mirrors, photographs and paintings that decorated the space.

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We started off with the Almonds and olives.  The almonds were coated with smoked paprika, sesame oil and sea salt.  The olives were coated with citrus and chili.  Both were good and served as a nice snack while we waited for our food to arrive.

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We started off with the Salt Cod and potato fritters with lemon aioli.  They were warm, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and really tasty.  They tasted great with the lemon aioli.

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The Pan Con Tomate and Jamon Serrano were up next.  The Pan Con Tomate is basically a slice of sourdough bread topped with a mixture of tomatoes, garlic and olive oil.  It tasted ok but there wasn’t anything stand out about it.  It was more sour than I would’ve liked – maybe it would taste better if tomates were in season?  The Jamon Serrano was really good, rich and not overly salty.  I could definitely enjoy a few more pieces of it.

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The Pintxo with mushroom, kale and chorizo was disappointing.  The mushroom and kale was bland and the chorizo was very hard.

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One of the main meat dishes was the Slow Cooked Chicken Drums, olive and wine braise, and basque ketchup The chicken drums were fall off the bone tender and tasted great with the basque ketchup.  I really enjoyed this dish.

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Paired with the chicken drums was the Grilled Asparagus with manchego cheese, citrus and truffle aioli.  This dish was a winner!  The combination of the grilled asparagus with the cheese, citrus and truffle was so tasty that Peaches vowed to start adding a drizzle of truffle oil to all her vegetable dishes.  The bright flavors of this dish reminded me of Spring.

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The other meat dish we enjoyed was the Brandt Lake Wagyu Rib Eye with red pepper confit, citrus aioli and arugula oil.  The ribeye was tender and had a nice smoky crust to it. Adding a squirt of lemon really brought out the flavors of this dish.

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We enjoyed the Patatas Bravas along side the rib eye.  This dish consists of baby potatoes in smoked paprika ketchup and aioli.  This dish was really good and the smoked paprika really stood out.  Aioli is a perfect pairing for potatoes in my opinion so I absolutely loved it.

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We also sampled the Ensalada with baby lettuce, apple, walnuts and manchego cheese in a sherry vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette was really strong and bit too vinegary for my tastes.

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We ended our meal with Churros served with melted chocolate.  The churros were tasty – light, airy and crispy with a dusting of cinnamon sugar.  I loved dipping it into the chocolate and wished for a few more.

The service was spectacular that evening.  Everyone was super attentive and the food arrived at a steady pace.  For those with babies, this place is kid friendly but they prefer that you come earlier in the evening rather than late night.  They only have one high chair available but can borrow one from their sister restaurant, Una Pizza and Wine if given advance notice.  We weren’t completely full after our meal but was glad that we took this opportunity to try out a new restaurant.

Ox & Angela

528 17th Ave SW
Calgary, AB T2S 0A9

Ox & Angela on Urbanspoon

Bonterra Trattoria

The last restaurant we tried was Bonterra Trattoria and their $25 dinner menu.

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We started with the complimentary bread and olive oil.  The olive oil actually had olive paste in it which was a nice surprise.  The bread was warm and was perfect for soaking up the olive oil.

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Prosciutto di Anatra was our starter. It consisted of a house made duck prosciutto, braised duck pâté, blood oranges, hazelnuts and arugula salad. The duck proscuitto was shaved very thinly so it was difficult to get a true taste of it. It was salty and reminded us of Chinese wax meat. The braised duck pâté was very mild in taste and made me wish for some added richness to bring out the flavors. Although this dish was pretty good, it was missing a component to bring it all together.

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I really enjoyed the Almerino alla Griglia and would gladly return to have this dish again. The arctic char was perfectly cooked and I loved eating each bite with the char caviar. I must get my hands on some of that! The confit potatoes, beet and fennel purée were a nice accompaniment.

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The dessert course was Crostala al Formaggio – a ricotta and mascarpone tart with a chocolate almond crust and orange marmalade.  The tart was quite nice, not a heavy dessert but very satisfying.  The chocolate almond crust was soft and cake-like and paired well with the cheesecake-like filling.  I must try to replicate this at home.

We were the very first dinner guests that evening so the food came out very quick and we finished our meal within an hour.  Service was satisfactory but not remarkable.  Overall, we had a good Big Taste experience but did leave slightly hungry.  I wouldn’t mind paying $35 for an added pasta course which I feel would complete the entire meal.

Bonterra Trattoria

1016 8 St SW
Calgary, AB T2R 0J3

Bonterra Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Well, that’s all for the Big Taste 2013 and I’m already looking forward to next years.  I hope you had a chance to try some Big Taste menus as well.

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