Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
Last Monday, I had the honour of being invited to a media event put on by Taste to rub elbows with media types, catch up with old friends and meet new ones, and of course, taste some great eats from their new menu!
I hadn't been to Taste before, but I'd been thinking of them ever since they were at Slow Food Calgary's Feast of Fields last September - they had postcards at their table advertising their Taste Test Tuesdays, a three-course meal for $30 offered every Tuesday. On Thursdays, they have a Sausage Party - $5 beers and a different house-made sausage each week.
On the other days of the week, the cozy, 36-seat restaurant focuses on "small plates" priced at $5-increments, and you can order one of everything on the menu ("The Big Bankowski") for $250. During the day, there's soups, salads, pastas and a selection of sandwiches for $12.
Monday's event highlighted some of the new menus that will be unveiled in the coming weeks, as well as some long-standing favourites, like the Duck Fat Popcorn ($5) we munched on as guests trickled in and sipped on glasses of bubbly:
The air-popped popcorn is tossed in melted duck fat and topped with a sprinkling of duck skin cracklins. I don't know if I've had bad luck with air-popped popcorn lately or if it's just the way it is, but I've found that when it's warm, it's a little chewy, but as it cools it actually crisps up and tastes better. The duck fat and cracklins gave a depth to the flavour of the light, airy popcorn - a very indulgent snack!
We also munched on some pillowy Pretzel Bits ($5), which came with a zippy white wine mustard for dipping:
Then it was on to the "main courses". I noticed that many of Taste's dishes like to mix sweet and savoury flavours, like this Organic Heirloom Tomato Salad ($9, lunch menu) topped with a dollop of basil mascarpone and a balsamic reduction.
I'm a sucker for colourful heirloom tomatoes, but they're not quite in season yet and were a little sour, though it went well with the sweet balsamic reduction. The smooth and buttery basil mascarpone was surprisingly light (I think it was whipped?) and packed with herb flavour.
Next up was Taste's take on bacon-wrapped scallops - seared scallops topped with crisp pancetta on a bed of braised savoy cabbage and fennel ($15).
The scallops were prepared simply, emphasizing their natural sweet flavour, while the crisp, non-greasy pancetta provided the savoury contrast. The braised vegetables were very tender, releasing their natural sweetness.
The pistachio-crusted Lamb Chops ($15), made with lamb from Sunterra Farms and sitting in a pool of maple glaze, were quite popular amongst the group. The sweet, nutty flavours were a nice change from the usual flavours that I generally associate with lamb, like rosemary or mint.
Another crowd favourite was their Mac 'n' Cheese ($10 at night, $12 for lunch), made with cavatappi (or, as I like to call them, Scoobi Doos) in a classic Mornay sauce with aged cheddar and parmesan, sprinkled with garlicky sea salt.
Yum. The ultimate comfort food.
Taste did up a few fusion dishes as well, like their Tuna Tartare ($15) which was topped with wasabi tobiko and served on wasabi tuile cookies.
I loved the fresh, melt-in-your-mouth tuna, which was perked up with a hint of ginger and sesame. The tuile cookie was a bit soft and I could hardly taste any wasabi in neither the cookie or the tobiko. I'm not sure whether the sweet-savoury combo worked here.
My favourite dish was the Asian-inspired Beef Tataki Tacos ($15), crispy wonton wrappers fried just so the tacos could stand upright, filled with slices of seared beef and a heap of carrot salsa. The flavours were fresh, tart and perky and I loved the crunchy shell and crisp carrots. The only quibble we had at our table was that the wonton wrappers still seemed to have a bit of raw flour on them, but otherwise they were delicious!
Throughout our meal we sipped on two wines - a red and white - chosen by wine director Brad Royale. Taste's wine list is unique in that it changes every month, corresponding to a different theme (March's was "Blend Your Mind", focusing on - you guessed it! - blended wines) and all wines are available by the glass. Since most of the dishes seemed lighter I gravitated toward the white - a light and fresh blend of Riesling, Weissburgundur and Chardonnay from the German vineyard Schloss Reinhartshausen. The red was a 2007 Antinori Tignanello - a blend of Sangiovese and Cabarnet Sauvignon.
We finished our meal with these delicious Chiffon Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream. Instead of offering mints or chocolates, Taste serves these at the end of every meal, though you can buy a dozen for $12. The cake was light and spongy, but I was most impressed with the icing - although deceivingly pale in colour, it packed a lot of espresso flavour and had a fluffy and airy texture.
All in all, it was a great event, a fantastic meal and a perfect introduction to Taste. I can't wait to go back!
1210 1 St SW
Calgary AB T2R 0V4
Open Mon-Sat 11:30 AM-late. Closed Sundays. No reservations available, but may be booked for private events.