A little over a month ago, Sharon and I were invited to join a group of bloggers in Calgary for the YYC Steak Tour. Tourism Calgary wanted to showcase local restaurants that have “a new take on steak” – something more than traditional meat and potatoes! We ate at five restaurants: Ox & Angela, Anju, Raw Bar, CHARCUT, and Rouge. Sharon has already done a very thorough job of reviewing the meal at each, so be sure to check out her posts.
On the way into Calgary, we stopped off at CrossIron Mills to have lunch at South St. Burger Co. While I liked the burger assembly line (similar to Subway) the patty itself was underwhelming. The texture and taste reminded me too much of a frozen burger. Sharon did enjoy the onion rings, however.
We usually stay at Hotel Le Germain when we visit Calgary, but as our accommodations this trip were being covered by Tourism Calgary, we were more than happy to stay at the Kensington Riverside Inn. It was very comfortable, and you really can’t beat the location! We took advantage of it, walking around Kensington and along the river.
We made sure to stop at Higher Ground, a popular coffee shop in Kensington. It turned out that Dan Clapson, the manager of Higher Ground and also a food blogger, was on our tour! It was great to chat with Dan about the popular meeting spot. He really knows his customer base, and doesn’t pretend to compete against Phil & Sebastian, instead recognizing that people visit Higher Ground for more than artisan coffee.
We took advantage of the proximity of our hotel to the river, and walked along Memorial Drive. We spent some time checking out the Peace Bridge, the controversial new bridge that connects downtown and the community of Sunnyside. I think it’s very interesting to look at, but I can see how it wasn’t welcomed by all Calgarians. With a total cost of about $24 million, it wasn’t cheap either! The bridge officially opened on March 24.
Our first stop on the YYC Steak Tour was Ox & Angela. We had a tapas style meal, with many small plates which turned out to be a great way to meet all of the other folks on the tour. The Spring Creek Ranch flat iron steak was quite tasty, but the “fierce potatoes” definitely stole the show. They were delicious! I also ate more than my share of the churros for dessert.
Our next stop was Anju. We were quite excited to meet Chef Roy Oh, a former Edmontonian who moved to Calgary nearly a decade ago. To start, we got to try soju – the Korean equivalent of vodka, distilled from rice instead of wheat. Though there was Sprite on hand to mix it with, I actually preferred it straight. Very tasty. My favorite dish was the malpec oysters, served with kimchi for a bit of heat. Also memorable were the chicken wings, something the Calgarians were raving about. They were, in a word, hot. I swear I couldn’t feel my lips for hours after we ate them!
The last scheduled stop was Raw Bar, but as we had to leave Calgary early enough to get back to Edmonton on Sunday night, we visited the restaurant for lunch without the rest of the group. We sampled the cocktails and even though we were on the steak tour, I simply could not resist trying the mushroom and bacon poutine. It probably could have used a bit more gravy and cheese, but it was delicious nonetheless.
Next up on the tour was CHARCUT, the only restaurant we had eaten at previously. We’re big Top Chef nerds, so Sharon and I couldn’t believe that we were actually with Connie DeSousa! We started by visiting the prep kitchen upstairs where Connie and John showed us how they make blood sausage (which they later cooked and served to us). It was pretty awesome to get a peek behind the curtain!
Of course, no trip to CHARCUT is complete without eating the signature poutine. Potatoes fried in duck fat, cheese curds, and chicken fat gravy. How can you go wrong? I could have eaten it all night long.
Probably my least favorite stop on the tour was Rouge. Compared to the rest of the dishes we ate, Rouge definitely featured the most formal and refined menu. My favorite dish was the lab two ways – a cut of sirloin and braised lamb mixed with lentils. The bee pollen macaron with lemon cream to end was also pretty tasty!
It seems that whenever we visit Calgary we do so primarily to eat! It was great to have the opportunity to try something new at some of Calgary’s hottest restaurants. Thanks again to Tourism Calgary for hosting us – it was a great trip!
Again, be sure to check out Sharon’s much more thorough reviews of the restaurants we visited.