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!
We ended the YYCSteak Tour at the most formal of the restaurants we dined in that weekend, Rouge. Located in a historic house in the central neighbourhood of Inglewood, Rouge is known for its celebration of seasonal ingredients and exquisite wine pairings. In fact, two years ago, it was named one of the S. Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants.
Chef Paul Rogalski’s French-style cooking techniques and commitment to local producers reminded me very much of Chef Blair Lebsack. Both have such deep respect for farmers that a conversation with them reminds you that sourcing locally can be the norm and not the exception. We were fortunate that Chef Rogalski was able to sit down and join us for the entire dinner that night and share some of his insights (and of course, introduce each course!).
It was clear that Chef Rogalski had put a lot of thought into his take on steak, so much so that we weren’t getting just one interpretation, but four. The first was a steak tartar, dressed with Rouge’s signature beet paint and an incredible accent of creamy, thick egg yolk that had been cooked in an immersion circulator. Mack thought there could have been more crostini, however.
Before the second dish arrived, we were told that we would be having shabu-shabu. I really wasn’t expecting the slice of shaved beef, horseradish agar gel and mushroom terrine with an herb-infused elk consommé that we were presented with. I didn’t enjoy the texture of the terrine, and the beef was actually quite difficult to eat in that shallow bowl, so it was not my favourite course. That said, it was easily the most elegant take on shabu-shabu I’ve ever had!
My favourite course was the lamb two ways: a cut of sirloin and braised lamb bound together with lentils. The latter was particularly memorable, with perfectly prepared lentils enriched with bites of tender, shredded lamb.
Lamb two ways
Then, perhaps the most elegant plate of steak that weekend, served with a foie gras and bone marrow spring roll and a salsify bean puree. Not captured in the picture below was the most delicious rosti – it only made sense that their potato component would be equally compact but delicious.
Steak and spring roll
It should be said that Manager Andy MacDonald did an amazing job pairing wines with each course, but because we were departing for Edmonton immediately after that dinner, we didn’t really indulge all that much. On another occasion, we would have been happy to fully partake, but we know from Gwen that the pairings were enjoyable!
A thumbs up from Gwen!
The kitchen even had something sweet for us to end with – a bee pollen macaron with lemon cream.
Although we appreciated the experience at Rouge, it was actually our least favourite of the YYCSteak visits. I still can’t quite put my finger on it, but it probably had to do in part with the relative formality of the restaurant compared with the others (I’m finding that I am definitely gravitating more to the casual upscale form of dining as of late). So although there is a time and place for such proper meals, I will admit that Rouge wouldn’t be our first choice on future trips to Calgary.
Still, many thanks to Chef Rogalski and the rest of the staff at Rouge for their generosity and hospitality – it did help round out our perspective of the Calgary steak scene.
1240 8 Avenue SE, Calgary