This is an example of about how it doesn’t ever hurt to ask.
We were heading back to Calgary for a short weekend visit and of course I wanted to try a newer restaurant that I’d never been to. But because H had outgrown his travel tie chair and I didn’t want to lug a booster seat on the plane, I needed to make sure whatever restaurant we went to had a high chair.
Home Tasting Room on Stephen Avenue was on my short list but a phone call confirmed they had no high chairs. So I took to Twitter and Chowhound to explain Home Tasting was the sort of place I had in mind but it fell a bit short of my toddler’s needs.
Well, food blogger, cook and parrot owner Dan Clapson saw this and called his friend Geoff, who happens to be the chef at Home Tasting. The restaurant tweeted me back and said they would bring in a high chair just for H!
On a Thursday evening, they thoughtfully placed us (three adults and H) at a large round table right by the door, where H wouldn’t be able to disturb the Christmas party in the back and large group in the middle. And where he could (and did) run around the front waiting area.
General manager Carey-Ann greeted us warmly and escorted H to his high chair, borrowed from Tilted Grill for the evening.
For a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in serving kids, they sure did treat H like a king.
Chef Geoff brought out an appetizer just for H: a cut-up Hidden Rose organic apple from Oregon. We were quite envious of the gorgeous pink interior of the sweet, crisp fruit. Geoff said Home Tasting had the only 32 Hidden Rose apples in Alberta!
Geoff also made H his own gourmet lasagna that I’ll admit we were all picking at.
But enough about the rugrat. We feasted as well. The chef’s philosophy is to stay close to sustainable, local ingredients while creating a warm, communal eating experience. That means comfort food brought up a notch, but without any kind of stuffy fine dining.
Chef sent out a pretty amuse of scallop that was literally just 12 hours out of the water, with Acadian sturgeon caviar and a pinch of Maldon sea salt. Now that’s staying true to the ingredients.
We shared all of our plates as they quickly filled up our table. (The kitchen was too kind to speed things up a tad so we could make H’s bedtime.)
A “light” dish of ricotta and herb gnocchi ($15) with braised kale and Japanese beech mushrooms (shimeji) set an earthy tone, followed by an “oh where did the warm weather go” heirloom tomato salad ($15).
While the tomatoes were obviously clinging to the last vestiges of flavour, a remarkably well-textured mozzarella (made in Calgary!) and a bright Niagara peach vinaigrette pumped up the jam.
The bison tartar ($17), made with meat from High Country Ranch south of Pincher Creek, should be one of the must-eats in Calgary. It’s an unadulterated adoration of the beast, with truffle aioli on toasted baguette providing the only needed punches. I was trying to figure out how to take the rest home in my purse.
The Noble Farm duck breast “cassoulet” risotto ($26) is a pretty smart dish, taking the flavours of cassoulet (bacon! fat!) but replacing the beans with rice instead.
The braised short rib ($25) was after my heart, served with BONE MARROW MASHED POTATOES and some green stuff I ignored (broccoli rabe, I think). The bone from which the marrow came was part of the presentation. Things like that impress me. I must have been a caveman in another life.
Desserts are not to be overlooked. A delicate, simple lemon posset ($7) was a sharp contrast to the ridiculously fantastic chocolate peanut butter bar with marshmallow nougat ($9). I’m not a PB fan, and I enjoyed this immensely.
Service was fantastic through the night, especially as we were on the cusp of being “those” customers with many special requests.
I wish Home Tasting much longevity among the other stalwarts on Stephen Avenue. Thank you for allowing us to include our toddler in a great evening of dining.
Home Tasting Room, Calgary, 110–8th Ave. SW, Calgary, (403) 262-8100. Closed Sundays. Open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday 5-11 p.m.