In addition to commemorating the Stampede’s 100th Anniversary this year, Calgary also co-holds the title of Cultural Capital of Canada in 2012. As a result, Tourism Calgary is seeking different ways of marketing their city, including how to highlight their burgeoning food scene. So for two days in February, Tourism Calgary invited several food bloggers to join them for “a new take on steak”, showcasing how five local restaurants are interpreting the old standard of meat and potatoes. Mack and I were fortunate enough to be a part of this group (which included Calgary bloggers Julie van Rosendaal, Gwendolyn Richards and Dan Clapson), and took part in a junket that saw our accommodations and meals covered. It was a first for both of us, and while we acknowledge that we no doubt received special treatment (which colours the experience in a way that no average dinner could live up to), the trade-off in access to the chefs and behind-the-scenes exposure made it worthwhile. Thanks to Tourism Calgary for the opportunity!
Established in July 2011, Ox & Angela is the second venture from Kelly Black and Jayme MacFayden of Una Pizza fame. Had it not been pointed out to us, however, I’m pretty sure we would have walked right past it. The plain white exterior does not at all connote the warmth and chic comfort that awaits inside.
Ox & Angela
Ox & Angela is divided into two personified rooms: the “Ox” lounge is all dark wood and unfussy, and with the large flat screen on one end, could be mistaken for a high-end pub. “Angela” was explained to us as Ox’s companion was complete with classy, feminine touches such as a wall of framed mirrors. We were seated in Angela, without the distraction of the streaming Superbowl coverage and with a view into the kitchen. I loved that the dining areas had a story – it suggested that the food would be made with just as much care and thoughtfulness.
Given the intention of this tour was to turn the stereotype of a typical plate of steak and potatoes on its head, Ox & Angela was the perfect place to start because diners aren’t presented with just one dish. Purporting the tapas style of sharing small plates, our meal consisted of steak, accompaniments and a number of side dishes.
I really enjoy this way of eating, as it enabled us to sample a wide variety of tastes, and in many ways, felt more like a night out as opposed to just having dinner. As well, in the context of our motley crew, sharing food helped facilitate conversation and familiarity.
The Spring Creek Ranch flat iron steak was front and centre, served with a mojo verde and a lemon aioli. The meat itself was moist and full of flavour on its own, but it was great to be able to dress up our steak in whatever way we wanted.
Flat iron steak
Mojo verde and lemon aioli
Without a doubt the patatas bravas (which translates to “fierce potatoes”) was the all-around favourite, creamy with the inclusion of the lemon aioli, and finished with a smoked paprika ketchup.
For me, the close second was the kale, braised with sherry vinegar, sultanas and toasted panko. Kale is already one of my favourite vegetables, but the preparation made me fall in love with it all over again – the bit of sweetness and crunch livened up the greens. Mack really enjoyed the tomato bread, which was simply grilled sourdough rubbed with garlic and tomato (something we were told that the Spanish typically eat with steak). Scallions were given a similarly straightforward treatment, grilled, tossed with sea salt, and topped with a salsa romesco. Like most of the menu, the sides featured simple ingredients executed brilliantly.
Braised kale with sultanas and toasted panko
Grilled green onions with a salsa romanesco
No one could pass up dessert, especially because churros were involved. Deep fried to a crisp, but still doughy on the inside, the churros were served with dipping chocolate, and were as fun to eat as the dinner that preceded them. Mack ate more than his fair share!
Ox & Angela was such a delight. Even though it is barely six months old, it was clear that the restaurant has a strong identity and holds true to its Latin inspirations. Without hesitation, I would return to Ox & Angela again – for the food and for the experience.
Ox & Angela
528 17 Avenue SW, Calgary
(403) 457-1432 (ext.#1)