If you’ve hung around the Edmonton food/twitter scene long enough, you’ve probably had a run-in with Phil aka Baconhound. A lover of meaty treats and homemade baileys, he was pleasantly surprised this past weekend with a birthday celebration at CHARCUT in Calgary. His lovely lady went about organizing a group of friends to help bring an added level excitement to this important birthday. When she first sent me a note describing the event, I knew there was no way that I would miss out. Calgary means a visit with family, a trip to Knifewear, and bagels; a surprise party dinner at CHARCUT would just be over the top.
The menu was fixed and the food would be served family-style. I think this makes for considerably less stress and a better experience when dining in large groups. Starting with the small stuff we were served a Slow Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad, Warm Raclette Cheese, and Arugula and Tuna Conserva. All three dishes were very enjoyable. The tuna and arugula was a perfect contrast to the gooey warm cheese, while the house-made goat cheese served like a loving companion to the mint and basil. I would easily order these three dishes on their own and ring for a private space in the attached hotel.
The CHARCUT Board followed. It included a variety of house cured meats, sausage and various accoutrements. Overflowing with meaty goodness (remember Phil likes meaty goodness), our table counterparts (each group of 4 people had every dish served) did their best to help us conquer this heavy platter. There was Pig Head Mortadella, Spragg Farms Heritage Pork Sausage, Lonzino and more. I felt a need for some heart drugs as my hands, lips and belly became ever more greasy. Thankfully the well thought out sides – sour cherries, mustard, charred jalapeno – did wonderful things to complement the meat. With all these meats I was starting to wonder how we‘d make it through.
The mains arrived in style and included a variable cornucopia of options. For the sides we had Duck Fat Fried Poutine and Smashed Poplar Bluff Potatoes, while the mains included Slow Roasted Heritage Chicken, Share Burger CHARCUT Style, Farmer’s Market Seasonal Vegetable Pasta, and Spit Roasted Spragg Farms Porchetta. If we hadn’t eaten enough, this would surely push it past 10 and into 11. The smashed potatoes were a solid side, but when you are at CHARCUT no other sides compares to the duck fat fried poutine. Sadly, I found the mains to be all over the map. The vegetable pasta was great with a beautiful creamy sauce and lovely texture. The chicken ranged from juicy leg meat to unfortunately dry breast meat. The famous SHARE burger, while tasty, is really more sausage patty than backyard BBQ burger. Finally the porchetta, which I found almost inedible. Lacking any pleasant texture or flavour, it did not surprise me that the table was cleared with the offering still on many diners plates. What started very strong had quickly turned mediocre. Good, but certainly not the great experience I’ve come to expect from CHARCUT.
The meal finished on a high with one of the biggest dessert offerings I’ve ever witnessed. A dish big enough to drown in, we sat back and scooped mounds of Warm Date Toffee Pudding into our bulging stomachs. Topping the sweet dense pudding with chantilly cream and caramel sauce made this a delightful end to the evening. Certainly not an event I’ll forget anytime soon, it makes me want to return sooner than later and be back on a better ground with the CHARCUT offerings. I want to extend a big birthday congratulations to Phil for being cool enough to unknowingly share his romantic birthday weekend in Calgary with friends.