Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
I often drive by Casel, the months-old condo development towering over 17th Ave and 24 St, on my way to work. I'd heard fantastic things about Cassis Bistro, the restaurant that is part of the bigger Casel Marché on the main floor of the building, which includes Market 17, Vie Café and J. Webb Wine Merchant.
Despite all the buzz and me not living too far away, I had never been to Casel Marché, so I was really excited when I heard that I'd won two spots to their first ever Interactive Monday night.
The 10 of us lucky folks met at J. Webb Wine Merchant, where owner Janet Webb kicked off the evening with a round of Val d'Oca Punta Rosa ($19.95), which was light and bubbly with a hint of fruity sweetness. We were then introduced to our host for the evening - Joel Goralski, president of Niklas Group, the developers behind Casel. Joel spoke briefly about being inspired by the pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods in Europe for the Casel Marché concept, and noted that he hoped to bring similar principles to his future developments. Since Cassis Bistro is closed on Mondays, Joel and his wife Jillian, also of Niklas Group, were our chefs for the evening, whipping up a few quick and simple weeknight dishes. Janet took the task of pairing the dishes with some affordable Italian wines from her store.
We familiarized ourselves with Market 17 by "shopping" for the recipe's ingredients. Because of the small space, Market 17 manager Alan has to be really choosy with what goes on the shelves, which are dominated by organic and gourmet products, mainly from smaller producers. After our brief "tour", we sat down to our meal, where the table was already set with baskets of Aviv Fried's Sidewalk Citizen bread, cubes of Old Amsterdam and Manchego (?) cheese and ramekins of olives.
Despite being so well known across the city, I had yet to try Aviv's bread, so it was a definite treat - the crisp crust gave way to a moist, chewy centre, and I ate slice after slice. I enjoyed the choice of cheeses as well; although they were hard cheeses, there was a bit of a creaminess to them, with a hint of nutty flavour. Of course, I didn't touch the olives.
Our first course was a salad of sliced tomato with chopped basil and chunks of buffalo mozzarella, dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper.
I loved the creamy and mild buffalo mozzarella paired with the sweet-tart tomatoes, peppery olive oil and aromatic basil. This simple dish definitely whet my appetite for more.
Our second appetizer was a small plate of Rising Moon Organics Wild Chanterelle Mushroom Ravioli with shaved parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil on top. Janet paired this with Librandi Cirò Rosato, which at $16.95 per bottle is a total steal.
The ravioli was really good. Despite being frozen, it still had an al dente texture, and the truffle oil really brought out the mushroom flavour. A few of us hadn't tried truffle oil before, so Joel was kind enough to pass the bottle of it around for us to see and taste a bit by itself - a little goes a long way! The Cirò Rosato was a great wine - it was deceptively fruity and berry on the nose, but turned out to be very full-bodied for a rosé.
Our main course was rotini served with a sauce made with Simply Natural Organics Vodka Cream Sauce and Sunworks Farm chicken chorizo. This was served with a Red Leaf Lettuce & Cucumber Salad dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Janet paired this with Taurino Salice Salentino ($17.95), a dry but flowery red wine that went well with the chicken and tomato.
I really liked this hearty pasta dish - again, the pasta was cooked just al dente, and I liked the spiciness that the chicken chorizo added to the sauce.
For dessert, we were served a couple of chocolatey treats from Urban Baker, available at Casel Marché's Vie Café - Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars and Chocolate Bombs. This was served with Marcarini Moscato d'Asti, a very light (only 5% alcohol!) dessert wine.
Both were super-decadent and delicious - the creamy, savoury peanut butter married well with the sweet, chewy nanaimo bar in the former, and the chocolate bomb was so rich and chocolatey; we were lucky that it had been pre-cut into pieces for us! A whole one is only $6 at Vie Café... The wine tasted like a slightly drier sparkling grape juice, making it very easy to drink, and really brought out the creaminess and sweetness of the chocolate desserts.
As a mostly from-scratch cook myself, I was impressed that a meal made mostly with pre-prepared ingredients could taste almost gourmet. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't an "instructed cooking class" as advertised, but who can complain about a free meal? My favourite part was how the entire meal was served family-style - it really encouraged everyone to chat, especially about the things that Casel Marché prides itself upon - food, wine and building communities and neighbourhoods.
If you are interested in participating in a future Interactive Monday at Casel Marché, entry forms are available at J. Webb Wines and Market 17 at Casel Marché, or you can follow Casel Marché on Twitter.
2505 17 Ave SW
Calgary AB T3E 7V3
Market 17 open Mon-Sat 9 AM-8 PM; Sun 10 AM-6 PM. J. Webb Wine Merchant open Mon-Fri 10 AM-8 PM; Sat 10 AM-6 PM; Sun 10 AM-5 PM. Vie Café open daily 8 AM-5 PM. Cassis Bistro open Tues-Sun 11:30 AM-2 PM; 5-10 PM. Closed Mondays. Underground parking available, ample street parking on 24 & 24A Sts and 17 Ave.