Sunday, March 9, 2014

It's time to replace watching Food TV with real world food experiences.

A short while ago I pointed out to my DH that it had been years since we'd been out for a nice dinner that wasn't part of a fundraiser. Sure there had been plenty of burgers and beers at chain restaurants, lots of fun casual meals with great conversation and lots of great, home cooked dinners with friends that love food. But something was missing:  opportunities to get 'all gussied up', to enjoy good conversation,  great food  and great service - where someone wasn't on the hook for the prep or clean up.

There are probably a handful of reasons that we haven't been out. We are firmly entrenched in suburbia, where chain restaurants serving burgers are the norm. The DH is a very good cook, and has oft been heard to say "Mine's better" when reviewing food. It's hard to part with your disposable income when you can do better, for less, in the comfort of your own home. And we've been pretty removed from the restaurant scene here in Edmonton for quite a while - years of uber busy kid sport schedules kept the calendar full and took priority over keeping informed on what's hot and what's not.

But as our calendars have freed up from those sport commitments our social commitments have shrunk, not grown. We find ourselves chilling, day after day, watching HGTV or the Food Channel, drooling over beautiful food or sumptuous vacation properties. Armchair foodies rather than the real thing. Sad and pathetic homebodies! ;-)

I'm not much of a fan of winter and do confess that I would rather be somewhere other than Edmonton for about six months a year. But, since I do live here, I've decided it's incumbent on me to find reasons/people/places/activities here that will help me like Edmonton more, not just hate it less. I  prefer to support local businesses whenever possible, and believe fresh local food is better for all involved.

Enter Avenue Magazine's Edmonton's Best Restaurants 2014, and agreement from friends Richard and Sheri to see if we could try them all! Well, at least the top 5 on the Best Overall list!

First up for us: Tavern 1903. I'd been intrigued by Tavern 1903 since reading Baconhound's review from Sept. 2013. I love it's downtown location in a reclaimed historic building. I firmly believe that if Edmonton is to thrive, we need a vibrant downtown: a vibrant and thriving city needs a thriving core.  I've enjoyed great meals at The Hardware Grill. I was intrigued by the Mozzarella Bar. So Tavern 1903 seemed a logical first choice.

We started slowly, ordering appetizers only, not sure if we'd continue having more of the amazing looking appetizers or move on to entrees. We'd heard great things about the Korean Fried Cauliflower, and also tried the Spinalis Rib Eye Roll, the Hickory Smoked Ribs and the Smoked Fior di Latte Mozzarella. Every single bite was delightful. The KFC was as good as we'd heard. I'm not sure if it or the mozzarella was more of a surprise for me - I'm actually not fond of cauliflower and I don't, usually, eat cheese. But these two dishes were superb. The combination of flavors and textures was both complex and yet subtle - no one flavor overpowered the others. Presentation was impeccable.The appetizers did their job and whetted our interest. We soon ordered entrees.

My friend Richard ordered the shortribs, the DH had the flat iron steak, and Sheri and I decided to share a full sized salad and - get this - Chicken and Waffles! I've heard tell of chicken and waffles but have never run across them on a menu. Curiosity got the best of me! The salad was crunchy and fresh, brilliantly dressed with the right amount of blue cheese and yummy bacon. And the chicken and waffles were another unexpected big win. Succulent chicken, crispy coating, savory waffle and a slightly sweet sauce. YUM.

We finished the meal with Jack Daniels Chocolate Cake and Maple-Bacon Cider Donuts. Now, I'm a chocoholic - never met a chocolate anything that I didn't love. And this cake was no exception. It was a beautiful rich chocolate delectation. BUT those donuts - oh my - those donuts might be the best dessert I've ever, ever had. Ever.

Service was impeccable. The food was beautifully presented. Portion sizes are generous. Pricing reasonable.

Overall, Tavern 1903 may be the best dining experience I've had in the last several years, locally and when travelling. I think one of the biggest indicators of how good it was was that the 'chef's' at the table quickly quit thinking about whether they could make the dish, and simply enjoyed them. It's been a while since we've still been talking about how good the meal was the next day!

No comments: