When the trend of “small plates” began appearing in Edmonton, I was a little sceptical. Like many, I was used to the standard appetizer/entree/dessert meal (at least at restaurants serving Western fare), and I was resistant to any change deviating from that. After my experience at Proof, however, I can tell you that I have wholeheartedly embraced this new way of eating out.
My discovery of Proof came by way of DC Foodies, a website covering local restaurants, food events, and farmers’ markets, among other things. Proof was listed as one of the blog authors’ favourites, and as soon as I read that the restaurant had charcuterie on the menu, I slotted it into our plan, making a reservation using Open Table (a website subscribed to by most non-fast food DC eateries, it seemed).
When we arrived at 6:30, there were only a few tables free of patrons. We learned very quickly that the dress code (though listed as “casual” on their Open Table profile), was elevated by the naturally dressy after work crowd, most of which were wearing suits and standard business wear.
The interior was elegant but understated – rich woods, metallic accent mirrors, dangling incandescent light bulbs, a beautiful glass wine case, and directly in my sight line, a charcuterie prep station. I wasn’t a fan of the woven chairs, though they did serve the purpose of ensuring the decor wasn’t too formal.
The name of the restaurant is derived from a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Wine is proof that God loves us.” So although the food was our initial draw, we were more than happy to sample Proof’s wine program, with 2, 4, and 8oz. pours of over 40 types of wine available, and a novel of selections by the bottle. Mack and I also agreed that we should keep better track of the wines we liked, in an effort to be more systematic about our vino exploration (of course, our favourites are noted in Mack’s moleskine and not mine…).
To put together our cheese and charcuterie platter, we asked our server for guidance, who was great at explaining the virtues of the various meats and cheeses. And while he and the rest of the service at Proof was assembly-line efficient (wines would instantaneously appear), the service was almost too formal for us to loosen up and enjoy ourselves – my only (admittedly minor) complaint about our experience.
We ended up with two meats – speck ($9), similar to a smoked prosciutto, and saucisson de paris ($8), a sausage – and three cheeses – la serena, a sheep’s milk cheese from spain, mt. tam from California, and cabot clothbound cheddar from Vermont ($13).
The bread course was a welcome change from the standard bread and butter rolls – baked pita-like strips were served with a mixture of sour cream, olive oil and chives. I can’t say I cared for the concoction, but I appreciated the fact that they wanted to do something different.
Bread service at Proof
Our starter was best described by Mack, who called it “adult cheese and crackers”. Heightened finger food or not, it was a lovely sight to behold – the cheeses were rustic in presentation, on a wooden platter served with fig and nut bread, honey, applesauce and dried figs, while the shaved meats were accompanied by toasted baguettes (and not an olive in sight!). We had a wonderful time experimenting with flavours – one of my favourite combinations was the subtly sweet fig bread with the creamy sheep’s cheese, salty prosciutto, and a dollop of honey for balance. Mack really enjoyed the cheddar, aged to the point where it had the texture and sharpness of parmesan. I think the best thing about the platter, however, was having to slow down and take time to eat it (during that time, we ran through about 3 2 oz. pours of wine each) – something that helped elevate our meal to an experience.
The menu directly encouraged patrons to share small plates, and since we had grazed over the platter to start anyway, we figured we might as well carry the sentiment over into the rest of our dinner as well. We decided to split three dishes: crispy pork confit ($13), spicy little meatballs ($10),and sauteed potato gnocchi with ramps and asparagus ($14).
Though service had been brisk thus far, we both weren’t prepared at the speed at which the dishes appeared all at the same time– the chef must have been right on top of his kitchen staff. I was also happy to see that the plating was appealing without being over-the-top.
I expected more from the pork confit, though it arrived exactly as billed – a soy-glazed slice of pork, skin crisp above a layer of fat, its crunch mirrored somewhat in the bed of jicima salad underneath. The level of spice to enhance the sweetness was perfect, but we both agreed there was something missing.
Crispy Pork Confit
Mack loved the meatballs (cooked so the meat was still a touch pink), and paired with goat cheese agnolotti, the dish was a bit like a gourmet edition of pasta and meatballs.
Spicy Little Meatballs
The gnocchi was by far my favourite – not the gummy dumplings I’ve found in my dining past, the gnocchi virtually melted in my mouth. Though the vegetables were appreciated, I probably could have done without them in favour of more gnocchi.
Sauteed Gnocchi with Ramps and Asparagus
If I ever came back to DC, I’d make a beeline back to Proof.
775 G St NW