Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Calgary Poutine Crawl 2013

It was my first time to learn such an event existed from a friend (who had heard from her hairdresser), and without any questions in mind, I knew I would have to go. This was Calgary's third annual poutine crawl, an initiative started from scratch by Karen Richards, a word of mouth marketer and instructor from MRU. Through talking to Karen, I was impressed and fascinated by her story behind the crawl and the complications faced at start up. From having to “beg” restaurants to participate in 2011 to having all 65 tickets sold out in 3 minutes this year, Karen’s poutine crawl has grown into a very successful and popular local event. (Not going to lie, I was a bit stressed out from having to constantly refresh the page in hopes for new tickets to pop up.)

The concept of this year's poutine crawl involved two party machine buses, 6 restaurants and one afternoon, all for the price of $48. The restaurant participants included Brava Bistro, Teatro, downtownfood, Brasserie Kensington, AÑEJO Restaurant, and National Beer Hall on 17th.

We started the day off at 11:30am at Brava Bistro, last year's poutine crawl winner. You could tell everyone was excited and pumped for a poutine-filed day as there were smiles plastered on everyone's faces, and the energy was high. We signed in and received a voting card and a wristband for all the foreshadowed poutine sweat.

Brava Bistro set the bar high by pairing their dish (mascarpone cheese, truffle butter, scallop) with a glass of white wine per person. The buttery-truffle gravy was heaven, and my friend and I had to refrain from slurping up the leftover gravy (though we did attempt to consume what we could with our fork). The scallops on the other hand didn't do too much for me.

Brava Bistro on Urbanspoon

Next up was Teatro. It was my first time stepping into Teatro and I was wowed by its decor. It looked fancy yet comfortable from their choice to use tall couches for several of its seating. On top of that, it was a very bright and open restaurant, something that I did not expect from looking at the building from the outside. Teatro's rendition was a deconstructed poutine that consisted of a fried potatoes, reconstructed cheese curd, cheese foam, and gravy meringue. It was definitely an innovative dish.

Teatro on Urbanspoon

En route to our third stop was downtownfood. In my opinion, downtownfood had the best presentation and interaction overall. Downtownfood chef and owner Darren MacClean introduced his restaurant as one that makes everything themselves. He even went the extra mile by serving additional dishes beyond the expected poutine. To start off, we were served a palette cleanser that consisted of lemon cello and pickled ginger. It was cool and refreshing, something that was well appreciated to help give our taste buds a break from the anticipated fries, cheese and gravy.

Following next was the soon to be crowned winner of  Calgary's Poutine Crawl 2013: Bacon mushroom melt. I'm not one of those bacon lovers that the majority of meat lovers tend to be, but this bacon was by far the best I've ever had. It was a house-cured bacon and had just the perfect amount of fat. It was cut up to a size that allowed you to really taste the bacon without it being too overwhelming.

To conclude our time at downtownfood, we left but not before being served dessert: Jack Daniel mousse. Rich and smooth, it was chocolate heaven in a bite.

downtownfood on Urbanspoon

Halfway done our journey, we found ourselves at Brasserie Kensington. I was slightly unimpressed by the fact that the chef or anyone for that matter did not make an effort to introduce us to the restaurant and/or the poutine that we were about to eat. The only "selling attempt" was their going around to show us their regular menu. However, their poutine was one of the better tasting ones and made up for the lack of socialization.

Pork Hock, Duck Gravy, Truffle Crispy Kale: The duck gravy was amazing, and the truffle crispy kale - truffle makes everything better, so nothing more needs to be said. The pork, unfortunately, didn't do too much. There was not much taste and I could have done without it.

Brasserie Kensington on Urbanspoon

After the fourth dish, we made our way to AÑEJO Restaurant, a Mexican restaurant that has been newly open for roughly half a year. By this time, I was starting to feel the limit in my stomach.

Anejo's Mexican take on poutine was housemade tortilla chips with cheese curd, red cheese sauce, and pork shoulder, all found on top of shredded cabbage. Although tasty, this was not poutine in my books. Though myself and some fellow poutiners were thankful for the cabbage as it was our only vegetable source for the entire day so far.

AÑEJO Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Last but not least, we ended our poutine adventure at National Beer Hall on 17th. It was a perfect pick as it was a more chill environment where people could hang around or leave as they wish without having to interrupt anyone else's plans. Nationals was also giving out sample sized drinks for their new summer beer (sorry but I forgot the name!). I drank mine and my friend's, and as good as it was, it did not help my case for poutine-eating.

Mushroom and Miso: This poutine was probably my least favourite. This was probably because I didn't like the choice of using miso on fries - my personal preference just does not think it's a good combination.

National Beer Hall on Urbanspoon

L-R: Party bus; Food picture taking from all angles, ev'ry angle

Overall, I had a wonderful and amazing experience being on this poutine crawl. What I liked about it? Too many - being surrounded by fellow food lovers, getting to visit restaurants I've never been to before, where not taking pictures of your food is "weird", partying on the party bus with energy fueled by poutine, and of course all the eating! I will definitely go back next year, granted that the tickets don't sell out on me. I'm counting down already!!

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