ONE18 EMPIRE – Calgary, AB

I started off the holiday season with an epic feast at ONE18 EMPIRE, a whiskey bar and restaurant, located in the Calgary Marriott. Since they had invited me to try out some of Chef Eric Larcom’s seasonal creations, I left it to the team at ONE18 EMPIRE to decide what we should have for the evening.

Bartender Jenny started us off with a delicious Maple Citrus Old Fashioned which was made with maple syrup, Spanish bitters and Maker’s Mark.

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Next Sous Chef Eliott brought us the giant Charcuterie Board, which isn’t usually available on the regular menu but is available for order for large groups and private events. The Charcuterie Board consisted of house made duck prosciutto, pancetta and capicola along with Casey blue cheese from Ontario, creamy Saint-Andre and Oka served on crispy house made lavash. I was really impressed with the house made condiments – blueberry preserve, sweet pickles and especially the sweet grainy mustard which went perfectly with the cured meats. Everything on the Charcuterie Board was so delicious that we couldn’t stop ourselves from eating it, not knowing what Sous Chef Eliott had in store for us for the remainder of the evening.

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For appetizers, Sous Chef Eliott brought out another huge board for my friend and I to share. This time it was filled with ONE18 EMPIRE’s famous Maple Bacon Wrapped Dates, Honey Bourbon Wings, Bourbon Short Ribs, Duck Salad, and Weathervane Scallops.

The Maple Bacon Wrapped Dates ($6) were stuffed with Gorgonzola and finished with a delicious whiskey syrup. They are hugely addictive and the perfect balance of salty and sweet. I could snack on these all night long while sipping cocktails. The Honey Bourbon Wings ($13) with a house made Bulleit Bourbon glaze and served with a blue cheese dip were finger-licking good.

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The Bourbon Short Ribs ($13), which consisted of 4-hour braised melt-in-your-mouth tender chuck flat, were stuffed in herbed Yorkshire pudding and topped with smashed peas, goat cheese, pancetta and mint. They are definitely the perfect comfort food for the winter season.

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The Duck Salad ($14), which consisted of a 3 hour confit duck leg with a rye whiskey burnt orange marmalade, was served with arugula, currants, and toasted pine nuts.  I loved how tender and flavourful the duck was. This would be the perfect salad for a light dinner.

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The star of the appetizer round without a doubt were these gigantic Weathervane Scallops ($15 each). These perfectly cooked sustainable scallops were served with 4-hour braised melt-in-your-mouth tender pork belly atop a bed of creamy polenta and finished with a grainy mustard jus and beef demi-glaze. There were simply AMAZING and easily one of the top bites I had in 2015!

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After the epic round of appetizers, we needed a short break so our bellies could make room for the entrees. Our hostess took this opportunity to tell us a little history about how ONE18 EMPIRE got its name.  Did you know that 9th Avenue used to be called Atlantic Avenue back in the late 1800s and Centre Street used to be called McTavish Street? ONE18 EMPIRE is named in honor of the Empire Hotel, which used to be roughly in the spot where the Marriott (and within it, ONE18 EMPIRE) is today and 118 Atlantic Avenue was the address for the Empire Hotel. Many of the cocktails here have a story to tell related to the history of the Empire Hotel, such as the “Near Miss“.

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For our second cocktail of the evening, Bartender Jenny prepared one of their most popular cocktails for us to try. The Temperance ($14), which consisted of whiskey, strawberry infused syrup, freshly squeezed lemon juice and Steller Jay’s sparkling wine, was delicious!  It was perfectly balanced and not too sweet. This is easily one of my favourites on the ONE18 EMPIRE cocktail list.

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For our mains, Sous Chef Eliott prepared three of the entrees for us to try – the Alberta AAA Ribeye, the Cedar Plank Salmon, and the Grilled Duck Breast.  First up was the beautiful Alberta AAA Ribeye ($34), which was served with spicy Brussel sprouts topped with house made pancetta and creamy tarragon smashed potatoes. The rib eye steak was well-seasoned and perfectly cooked to a medium rare.

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I was quite impressed with the perfectly cooked whiskey-glazed Cedar Plank Salmon ($27), which was served on a bed of yummy broco-cauliflower slaw. It was moist, juicy, flavourful and fork-tender with a medium rare center. This was a stark contrast to the bland and chewy salmon I had as part of a Grilled Seafood Salad from an eatery down the block the week before.

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My favourite out of the three entrees was the Grilled Duck Breast ($26), which consisted of a Fraser Valley duck breast grilled to perfection and was served with a flavourful root vegetable hash with bacon lardons and a side of grilled fig jus.

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For our final cocktail of the evening, Bartender Jenny gave us a demo of how the Black Walnut Old Fashioned ($12) is made, which included charring the whiskey barrel and capturing the smoky aromatics to coat the glass before pouring in the mixture of bourbon, water, sugar, angostura & black walnut bitters.

Though we were so full, we couldn’t resist dessert.  Sous Chef Eliott brought us three epic desserts to try –  Sticky Toffee Pudding, Triple Chocolate Bourbon Cake, and Goat Cheese Cheesecake. The decadent warm Sticky Toffee Pudding with a hazelnut praline topping was served with a side of Calvados ice cream.  This is the perfect comfort dessert for the chilly winter night!

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Next up was the  Triple Chocolate Bourbon Cake topped with a mirror finish ganache. Let’s be honest here, who can resist this beautifully presented Triple Chocolate Cake? I know I couldn’t. We tried our best to finish every last bite.

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The star of the dessert round for me was by far this AMAZING Goat Cheese Cheesecake topped with bourbon caramel. This was seriously one of the most memorable cheesecakes I’ve had to date! The goat cheese flavor was surprisingly not too strong. It was perfectly balanced, light, and not too sweet. This cheesecake is a MUST HAVE if you go to ONE18 EMPIRE. I can’t wait to be back to have this cheesecake again!

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ONE18 EMPIRE
820 Centre St S,
Calgary, AB
(403)269-0299

one18empire.com

Posted in Alberta, American, Calgary, Canadian, Dinner, drink, eat, Late Night, Lunch, Snack | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Century Launch – Calgary, AB

Last month, I was lucky to be invited to the Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Century media launch party hosted by Jack Daniel’s and Brookline PR at the Bourbon Room at the National on 10th.

Tennessee Fire SourWe started off the evening with two delicious Jack Daniel’s cocktails. The first was “The Matthew”, which consisted of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey (aka Jack Honey), toasted oat syrup, apple bitters, and fresh lemon. My favorite was “The Tennessee Fire Sour”, which consisted of the spicy, cinnamon-flavored Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire (aka Jack Fire), egg whites, bitters, and fresh lemon.

We then moved on to a tasting of the amber-colored Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack and the bold and robust Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select.

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The star of the evening was Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Century. In collaboration with the Sinatra Family, this special ultra-premium whiskey was created to celebrate Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday and commemorate Jack and Frank’s special friendship. Only 100 barrels of Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Century are being made available globally, with each bottle being individually numbered.

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The Sinatra Century was created through careful selection of specially crafted custom barrels to achieve a special flavor and aroma in order to give Frank a proper 100th birthday gift. It is crafted using the distillery’s same nearly 150-year-old Tennessee Whiskey recipe with the cave spring water from the Jack Daniel’s Hollow, proprietary yeast and charcoal-mellowing process. The whiskey is then placed in specially hand-picked “Sinatra” barrels to be exposed to the extra layers of perfectly toasted oak to allow this limited edition whiskey to achieve its pleasantly smoky and rich aroma, which Sinatra was known to adore.

This 100-proof Sinatra Century is Jack Daniel Distillery’s second offering to commemorate Frank Sinatra. The first was the Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select, which was introduced in 2013.

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This special edition Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Century is now available in select Canadian markets (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, and Nova Scotia) for a limited time. Each exclusive bottle is enclosed in a luxury gift box and includes a tie-clip shaped USB drive containing a selection of previously unreleased Sinatra tracks, entitled “Sinatra Live at the Sands in 1996”. This special gift set, which includes a 1L bottle of the Sinatra Century is priced at approximately $850. In Calgary, it is available at select stores such as Willowpark Wines and Liquor Depot. Or if you are in interested in just a taste, Milk Tiger Lounge is currently offering the Sinatra Century for $60 an oz.

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Hy’s Steakhouse – Calgary, AB

hys_steakhouseLast month I was invited by Anstice PR and Hy’s Steakhouse to check out the lunch menu at Hy’s. This was my first time visiting Hy’s since they moved into their beautiful new location at The CORE shopping center.

Hy’s lunch menu consists of a variety of Modern and Classic selections ranging from appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches to entrees. For those looking for something more substantial, Hy’s also offers their full dinner menu during lunch. Everything on the menus sounded so good that my friend and I had trouble deciding what to order so we asked our server for recommendations.

We started off with one of the “Modern” appetizers, the Black and Blue Ahi Tuna ($18.95), which consisted of lightly seared Cajun spice-crusted ahi tuna served with soya sauce and wasabi mustard.

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For our main, we took our server’s advice and shared the 22 oz Porterhouse ($69.95) off the dinner menu and added a skewer of Grilled Prawns ($15.95) to make up our own Surf ‘n Turf combo along with a side of Hy’s housemade luscious Bearnaise Sauce ($4.95), which went perfectly with the prawns. I’m glad we went with our server’s recommendation as the Porterhouse Steak gave us an opportunity to sample two cuts (the tenderloin and strip steak) in one. Our steak was well-seasoned and cooked to a perfect medium rare.

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We also got a side of perfectly cooked Fresh Seasonal Vegetables ($9.95) to round out our meal.

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For dessert, we couldn’t resist trying Hy’s Famous Cheesecake ($10.95) topped with a berry coulis. It was the perfect ending to our delicious lunch.

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Hy’s is definitely a welcome addition to the downtown core. It’s a great place for business lunches and dinners. They have got a great menu selection of both modern and classic dishes so you can be sure the menu will have something for everyone.

Hy’s Steakhouse
Corner of 8th Ave. and 3rd St. SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 663-3363

http://hyssteakhouse.com

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18th Annual Calgary Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival – Ticket Giveaway!

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The Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival, sponsored by Sobeys Liquor and Safeway Wine & Spirits, is back again in Calgary this coming Friday, October 16 and Saturday, October 17! The Grand Tasting Hall will be at the Stampede Park BMO Centre, Halls D & E. The Grand Tasting Hall will feature over 140 wineries, with a distinguished collection of wines from 16 different countries, more than 150 brands of premium spirits, single malt and blended scotches, port, liqueurs and craft beers. You will have the opportunity to taste  approximately 100 new-to-Alberta wines, beers and spirits! There will also be over 50 local restaurants and food purveyors, who will cook up a variety of gourmet culinary creations.

As with previous years, Sobeys Liquor and Safeway Wine & Spirits will be featuring an on-site liquor store, where attendees can purchase their favourite finds from the weekend.

Thanks to Brookline Public Relations, I have two(2) admission tickets to give away for this event. The giveaway tickets are for the Saturday, October 17 afternoon session (12-4 PM). When presented at the door, these tickets will allow for complimentary access into the Grand Tasting Hall. Please note that sampling coupons are not included and all attendees will need to purchase sampling coupons separately at a cost of $0.50 cents each to use for obtaining food, wine and other beverage samples.  These admission tickets are not transferable to any other session. This is an adult only event. All attendees must be 18 years or older. Minors (including infants) are not permitted to attend.

To enter into this draw for the Wine Festival tickets (Prize worth $40), simply leave a comment in the section below telling me “What is your favourite wine, beer or cocktail drink?”. You will need to put a valid email address in the appropriate box when telling me about your favourite beverage (not to worry, your email address will not be published), so that I can contact you if your name is drawn. This giveaway contest will close on Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 8:59am. I will hold a random draw and one winner will be chosen. I will contact the winner via e-mail immediately as well as post the name of the winner here.

If you need to purchase additional admission tickets, they are still available. The tickets are $30 each online or $35 at the door for the Friday, October 16 Evening Session (5-10pm); $20 each online or $24 at the door for the Saturday, October 17 Afternoon Session (12-4pm); and $32 each online or $37 at the door for the Saturday, October 17 Evening Session (6-10pm) . As I mentioned previously, the sampling coupons are $0.50 each and can be purchased (by cash only) at the Grand Tasting Hall.  The samples can range from 1 to 20 or more coupons, depending on the item.

For more information, visit http://www.rockymountainwine.com/calgary.html.

Good Luck!

Posted in Alberta, American, Calgary, Canadian, drink, eat | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Burger + Vino Tuesdays @ The Nash – Calgary, AB

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to the media sneak peek of The Nash’s Burger + Vino launch. For every Tuesday in September, The Nash will be featuring a different wine and burger pairing for $30. I knew I’d be in for a real treat as The Nash, like its sister restaurant, NOtaBLE, is well-known for creating outstanding burgers. Last year, during YYC Burger Week 2014, NOtaBLE’s pork & wild boar burger with housemade foie gras butter and double smoked bacon was one of my favorite during the 9-day event. And earlier this year, The Nash’s applewood smoked pulled pork & foie gras burger with Comte cheese on a wild boar bacon brioche for Alberta Burger Fest was hard to beat.

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For this Burger + Vino launch, we tried the Nash Beef & Pork Burger with basil aioli, friulano cheese, and red pepper & tomato jam. It paired perfectly with the bold Stroppiana Barolo. The burger came with a choice of side salad or fries.

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If you want to try The Nash’s Burger + Vino features, you’d better hurry because including today, there are only 3 more Tuesdays left in September!

The Nash
925 11 St SE
Calgary, AB
(403)984-3365

http://thenashyyc.com

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