The sun is out, the birds are singing in the trees, and spring is undoubtedly in the air. It’s finally March and time for my absolute favourite Calgary foodie event: Big Taste Calgary. I’ve eagerly been watching the website for updates and the opportunity to buy tickets to some of the great events put on by Downtown Calgary every year. These events are so popular that they sell out rather quickly and there have been a couple years where I missed out on a few that I wanted to attend. This year when I got the notification that tickets were on sale bright and early one morning, I used my phone to buy tickets while I was still in bed. I managed to snag tickets for four events before my bank account ran out. In general I like to buy solo lunch tickets for myself along with dual tickets to a couple of events where I drag hubby along. Dining solo at these events is great because I’m usually seated with friendly strangers and I meet some really interesting people this way.
The best thing about Big Taste Calgary is that it is a great chance to visit restaurants that I haven’t had the opportunity to dine at previously. If you don’t want to buy tickets to events, there are 76 participating restaurants where you can enjoy 100’s of prix fixe multiple course menus for $15,$25, $35, and $65. I really enjoy the events because I like meeting like minded foodies and hearing John Gilchrist talk about the various restaurants, chefs, menus, ingredients, and BC wine pairings. The Big Taste Calgary kickoff lunch took place at Home Tasting Room on Friday, March 6. I had actually forgotten that hubby and I had been to Home Tasting Room a few years ago for a special anniversary dinner. Though we really enjoyed our dinner, my momentary memory lapse was due to the fact that I didn’t write a post on our experiences that night. The restaurant has changed executive chefs since then so my experiences at the Big Taste event were akin to me dining at Home Tasting Room for the very first time.
Arriving to an event as a single does sometimes prove to be a problem. In this case I was to be seated right at the end of the table, nearest the door. I was a bit worried about not being able to hear John so I asked him where he was to be speaking from. I honestly had no intention of being moved at all but one of the restaurant owners was within earshot and she mentioned that they had an extra seat at their table and I was welcome to it. So, I ate lunch with John Gilchrist and Suzanne Baden, managing general partner of HTR. The lunch created by Executive Chef Kaede Hirooka was outstanding.
We began with a very satisfying creamy, yet light Carrot and Prosciutto Soup. The flavours of the carrot oil and leek ash were present but not obtrusive. This soup was paired with Sandhill Chardonnay. For the second course, diners had a choice between a Winter Greens and Roasted Root Vegetable Salad and Grilled BC Octopus. I took a quick look around to see that like me, the majority of the diners had chosen the BC Octopus. One perfectly grilled tentacle lay across a shaved apple and celery salad along with Ume (Japanese plum) and Shisho Emulsion. While the dish was certainly beautiful and the octopus was fork tender, I found the salad portion to be quite acidic. The Grilled BC Octopus was paired with Red Rooster Gewurtztraminer.I went against the majority of the other diner’s choices when I chose the Cumin Scented Falafel over the Maple and Soy Marinated Bison Flank Steak. Normally I would choose the meat option but I had some lovely striploin steaks waiting for my dinner with the family. I was really happy with my first ever falafel experience, though this one was not made with the traditional chickpeas but with Red and Navy beans. The Sandhill Sauvignon Blanc was an excellent pairing.
I am in love with panna cotta. I could make it weekly if my waistline allowed…the Home Tasting Room version was made with Greek yogurt so this may just be an option! The lemon dessert was a great way to end our Big Taste Calgary lunch at Home Tasting Room.