Follow Me Foodie to “The Really, Really Long Table Dinner” in Calgary, AB!
Celebrating City Palate’s 20th Anniversary with Calgary’s 1st long table dinner in the heart of downtown.
It was the first ever long table dinner in downtown Calgary, and if I didn’t know I would have been fooled. It was organized by City Palate, a bi-monthly publication on Calgary’s food and wine scene. City Palate started in 1993 and this year they are celebrating their 20th anniversary with 20 events, and this was one of them.
It was Follow Me Foodie to Calgary and the events were killing it. From a Top Chef Canada dinner to Slow Food Calgary’s annual Feast of Fields, the benchmark was set high. I was invited to “The Really, Really Long Table Dinner” and I was really looking forward to it, although part of me was expecting it to be a gong show. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but as a guest, I was impressed and it came together well.
They set the bar high for future long tables and they exceeded expectations from many people. As a tourist from Vancouver, where we have lots of long table dinner events, this was one to compete with and I’d love to see it happen in my own city. If not, then I should start planning ahead to attend this one again next year – that is if they have one, and let’s hope they do.
On September 16th, 250 people attended “The Really, Really Long Table Dinner” on Stephen Avenue in the heart of downtown, Calgary. Stephen Avenue is one of Calgary’s two most popular streets and it’s where many of their restaurants are. For Vancouverites, this would be like hosting a long table on Granville or Robson Street. It was a challenging undertaking but they did an incredible job.
The 7 course dinner was catered by 7 upscale restaurants on Stephen Avenue who each made a course. Since the servers had to carry each plate from the participating restaurant to the table, the food wasn’t always served hot, but it was food that was still good warm to room temperature.
While the food was good considering the circumstances and context, the event was more about the experience. It was casual yet classy, and it was an unique experience I recommend to both locals and tourists. However it is not a proper introduction to a restaurant since you don’t get the ambience of each individual restaurant, but it was an exciting social gathering.
Proceeds from the event also when towards the Calgary Foundation Flood Rebuilding Fund.
Another highlight of the event was meeting Calgary’s beloved mayor, Nenshi, who is the first Muslim mayor for a major North American city. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed this much love for a mayor, and the ladies from TO were fangirling hard 🙂
Local Calgary jazz band, The Polyjesters, provided music for the evening.
On the table:
I was introduced to Catch & The Oyster Bar at Slow Food Calgary’s Feast of Fields, although I knew of them well in advance.
As I mentioned in my previous post, it is attached to the Hyatt Hotel, but it is not the hotel restaurant. It was once an iconic kitchen in Calgary and a lot of great chefs started here.
Chef Michael Noble of NOtaBLE, one of the culinary godfathers in Calgary, was the first Executive Chef at the restaurant. The chef is now Kyle Groves who earned the restaurant Best Overall Restaurant of the Year and Best Seafood Restaurant in March 2011 by Avenue Magazine.
After “The Really, Really Long Table Dinner” I stopped by Catch for a kitchen tour with Chef Groves. The restaurant is not the “hot spot” for young people, but it is where business accounts prefer to host and it is one of Calgary’s classics. The upstairs is fine dining without the white tablecloths, and the downstairs is casual with an oyster bar featuring West and East coast oysters.
Catch & The Oyster Bar presents the 1st course…
- It was a simple starter course.
- Due to the travel time and pre-shucking, some of the oysters lost their natural juices and were a bit dry, which is obviously not how they would normally serve them at the restaurant.
The owners and chefs at CHARCUT are Connie DeSousa and John Jackson. DeSousa was on Top Chef season 1 and out of all the Calgary contestants she has made it the furthest in the competition finishing in top 3.
The name comes from CHAR which stands for their custom built rotisserie and charbroiler and CUT is for their vintage-style slicer and hand made charcuterie. They specialize in charcuterie and most their dishes feature heavy proteins and meat-centric options.
CHARCUT Roast House presents the 2nd course…
I was introduced to CHARCUT the night before at The Top Chef Dinner at River Cafe, and they featured the same signature charcuterie for this event. Unfortunately I didn’t get to try the restaurant, but their signature charcuterie was very good and this was representable of who they are. It was a massive platter of charcuterie and I felt like we barely made a dent even though we kept eating it.
- This is CHARCUT’s pride and joy.
- Mortadella is a large, cured, Italian sausage, or cold cut meat, originating from Bologna, Italy.
- It is made from lean pork which is ground until almost a paste and studded with pork fat.
- Pistachios or pine nuts, peppercorns and/or olives will also be thrown in the mix.
- It can be served sliced paper thin to be used for sandwiches, or cut into cubes to be served as an appetizer.
- The American version of mortadella is boloney, which many might call a bastardized version – although apples and oranges.
- This looked ready for a sandwich, but it was a starter course and it is available at CHARCUT.
- It was a pistachio, peppercorn and truffle mortadella and there was a good balance of meat and fat.
Pig’s Head Mortadella served at “The Really, Really Long Table Dinner” event on the left, and Pig’s Head Mortadella served at The Top Chef Dinner at River Cafe on the right.
- Usually it comes with a pig head rind around the edges (as photographed on the left), but it was removed for The Top Chef Dinner at River Cafe.
- I have no problems with pig’s head, but the rind was a bit chewy, so I preferred it removed.
- It was definitely not your grocery store deli-meat and I liked it on both occasions, although more elegantly treated at the smaller event which was expected.
- The slices were thin, buttery, creamy and melt in your mouth tender, but not too rich or overpowering with any particular spices or flavour.
- It was excellent mortadella, but professionally made mortadella treated as an art is almost always good.
Bison Heart Kielbasa
- Kielbasa is a Polish sausage normally made from pork and/or beef, but this was made from bison heart and likely pork and/or beef too.
- It was a firm well-made sausage and it wasn’t too salty.
- It had a meaty chew and slight bounce thanks to the added chunks of bison heart.
- Bison is a lean game meat, and it’s not as strong as beef in flavour.
- The heart is naturally a bit bouncy with a bite, and I personally like heart, so it gave the sausage character and dynamic texture I could appreciate.
- Traditionally in Poland it would be served with cabbage, beets and potatoes, but here it was served with grainy mustard, which isn’t necessarily uncommon.
I didn’t hear much about The Belevedere, but it is part of Calgary’s historic fine dining scene with white tablecloths suited for a mature clientele. It seemed like a Hy’s Steakhouse but they feature French and Canadian cuisine. They are well recognized by Wine Spectator Magazine who places it as one of the top 500 wine lists worldwide.
The Belvedere presents the 3rd course…
- This was one of my favourite courses and it was a bit unexpected.
- It was quite traditional, but well made and the meat was moist.
- I couldn’t taste much foie gras, but the sweet and savoury balance was well achieved.
- Based on this I would want to try the restaurant, but the ambiance is a bit dated for my tastes.
This is another one of Calgary’s old fashioned steakhouses and it was more or less in the same category as The Belvedere. They specialize in traditional steakhouse fare with some French and Italian inspiration.
Trib Steakhouse presents the 4th course…
Oven Roasted Bacon Wrapped Veal Sweetbread with Madeira Glazed Wild Mushrooms – It was a pretty big plate for the sweetbreads. It was an adventurous course to serve at an event like this, but I appreciated the risk.
The sweetbreads were quite good, but a bit forgettable and it would have been nice to have the bacon crisp. It’s a pretty traditional recipe, like bacon wrapped scallops, but they don’t offer this on their regular menu. It wasn’t necessarily a convincing dish, although not bad.
Blink has been on my bucket list since it opened. I remember wanting to try it five years ago when I was in Calgary for stampede and I was hoping to visit this time around, but I ran out of time.
It’s modern fine dining featuring Canadian cuisine with local and Pacific Northwest ingredients executed with European techniques. It was named #9 Best New Restaurant in Canada by enRoute Magazine in 2007 and it is still loved by locals today. In the last few years there has been some chef changes and it has fallen off the radar due to the increase of new restaurants, but I would still want to visit it in the future.
Blink presents the 5th course…
- This was very representable of something I would find back at home in Vancouver, BC – after all it was highlighting BC Albacore Tuna.
- They did a great job with it and it was very simple, but good.
- Simple works with albacore tuna, although a mild tasting fish.
- The crisp pan-seared parmesan polenta was also very good, and based on this dish I would want to visit the restaurant.
It’s inspired by upscale bistros in New York City and it is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Resort brand. The 30 seat restaurant opened in 1984 and I didn’t hear much about it from locals, but local media recognize them for their wine list.
Divino presents the 6th course…
- I loved the presentation for this. It was colourful and elegant for being served family style.
- I was more interested in the carrot and beet side with pan fried gnocchi than I was with the ribeye, which was unexpected especially for being in Calgary.
- The ribeye wasn’t as tender even when I had the rare parts.
- It would have been better with a jus, but for having the pressure of bringing the main dish, it was a good effort.
This is one of Calgary’s top fine dining restaurants that could appeal to mature and modern audiences. It was actually the restaurant I chose to visit on my own time, and I only had two dinners to spare. I was really happy I picked Teatro though especially since they only featured dessert at this dinner.
The dessert at the restaurant was excellent, but the petit fours they featured at this event didn’t show their capabilities. For the context of the event it was appropriate, especially if they wanted variety and to prepare ahead of time, but I just feel so much more passionately about the restaurant. The chefs are talented and I’ve been watching their work for a while as to why I had to have a dinner here on a regular night.
Teatro presents the 7th course…
- They offer a traditional tiramisu made with an old family recipe on their a la carte menu (see here) and I’d recommend even going for that alone.
- Try and have dinner there, but it’s a good place for after dinner drinks and dessert too.
- I know a tiramisu can be just a tiramisu, but the one here was really impressive.
- See my dinner post at Teatro here.
Paul Zinck Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé, Alsace, France
212 Yves Cuilleron Viognier, Rhône, France
2011 L’Oustal Blanc Naick, Minervois, France