I'm going to miss this. The dull chatter of other guests; the dim music in the background; the crashing of pots and pans from the kitchen. Servers yelling “Kitchen, may I?” The clink of cutlery on the dining room tables. I could be describing any day at work, but I've been off on Maternity Leave for three weeks now and I've gotten used to being at home all day so it’s not work I’m going to miss. I can cook a damn tasty breakfast but my own kitchen just doesn't have the same atmosphere.
What I'm actually describing is a busy breakfast spot, not the one I work at, but one in my neighborhood. And what I'm going to miss is the being alone. I am very excited to start this next chapter and cannot wait to meet Baby H. But the days of me lounging around writing my blog and eating breakfast are just about up. I have a week left before I'm due and I'm feeling a little morose. I don't want this entry to be a bummer, but I'm coming to terms with the fact that it's not only me anymore. I am going to try to find time to write about being a first-time mom (FTM for you folks that don't 'internet' all day) because I think that will be cathartic for me and humorous for you. There are so many times lately that M and I say to each other "the last time before the baby comes" or "we aren't going to get to do this once baby is here" and so we've filled the last two weeks or so with activities or date nights. Simple things even like going to the movies, or a drive out to Cochrane for ice cream. But my favourite has been Valentine's Day. One last date night before the baby... one last splurge before we hunker down... one last hurrah.
Alloy is... interesting to say the least. But it currently reigns as my favourite restaurant in the city for so many reasons. I was first introduced to it about three years ago from an old job. Boss man had taken us there for a work lunch one day and we didn't have a great experience. I had mentioned that I'd been there to a friend of mine who happened to know two employees. She told them about my experience and I was offered a dinner on the house (that's the very short version of the story). We went back for our dinner a few weeks after that and I had the second best meal of my life. The short rib entree was to die for. I'm not going to go into detail other than that because this visit was about Valentine's Day. I had put my foot down earlier in January and said that I wanted to go out for Valentine's this year. It's unlikely we'll get to go out next year and the past five years or so I've been working (yay restaurant industry!). So we're going out!
We had been keeping on top of the website as they only do a fixed menu for this day of the year and they post it online ahead of time. I had my fingers crossed that I'd eat everything on it and M had his fingers crossed that it wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. Well, I lucked out, M not so much! Haha. I said it's my favourite, I never said it’s the cheapest.
When you Google the address you usually assume it's wrong. They are located northeast of Chinook Mall, but way back in the industrial area. You could literally drive past it two or three times before you see it. A tiny sign out front and the building is nondescript and fades into the treed background. They've done a nice job redecorating the inside, because it was originally built to be an accounting firm, or something white collar, in the 80's. You know that glass block wall? Yup, it's got those. A lot of round, white leather booths, which lend a little to the 80's flair, but this is the kind of restaurant that updated its look just enough that you don't care. (The patio ranks in the top spots in yearly Calgary reviews, we haven’t tried it yet though). You're here for the food. The chef is Colombian we learned and it reflects in his dishes. This menu shows his roots, his vision and his flare. It started with an amuse bouche of tuna tarter with chimichurri and marinated tomato and fell right into dinner:
textures of carrots | maple & dijon roasted heirloom carrots . carrot foam. carrot chips . carrot sorbet
lobster duo | butter poached lobster . potato salad . orange fennel & lemon dressing . lobster crêpe noir . brie cream
risotto | truffle & cauliflower . basil oil . grana padano . micro basil
sous vide bison striploin | celeriac purée . brussels sprout . blackberry demi glace
flourless dark chocolate cake | nutella gelato . pistachio meringue . vanilla anglaise . white chocolate flakes
And I ate every single drop. I promised M that I would eat everything I was served, no bitching, no picking anything out. I may have picked out like, 3 slices of onion out of the risotto. That's it. I am proud of me :).
The amuse bouche was delicious, the tuna prepared perfectly, and the chimichurri gave it some heat, but nothing I couldn't handle. Ha, this is me we're talking about...it was totally spicy. But I ate it anyway, and took one small step towards tolerating spice.
The first course, trio of carrots was insane! The carrot chips were my favourite part, crispy and with a black sesame garnish, and M raved about the carrot sorbet. Raved! He still talks about it. For me, I was less impressed. Sure you don't usually see carrots in a cold sweet ice cream style, but all I could taste was baby food. I didn't have the heart to tell him that when we were eating, but yup that's what jarred carrots taste like - you'll experience it soon enough dear ;).
Second course of butter poached lobster was my second favourite dish of the night. The lobster crepe noir would throw some people off I think, but I knew that it was dyed with cuttlefish ink, which gives colour but no flavour. It was a striking contrast on the plate, but the inside actually resembled more of a crab cake than a lobster stuffing. No matter - I still ate all of it. The potato salad was the best part of this dish for me, it was deconstructed, let’s say, and I could have eaten an entire plate of it. M didn't like the lobster as much, he felt for ‘butter poached’ it should have been softer and more…uhh…buttery. I couldn't really say that he was right, or wrong, I'm not sure I’ve ever had a butter poached lobster to compare it to. So I say it was just fine.
Truffle and cauliflower risotto was next to arrive and I was most excited about this dish. The first few bites stood out for me. The buttery texture, the crispy cauliflower- everything was delicious. But oddly, after five or six bites, I was over it. I have to admit a few things at this point. I don't really love risotto, or rice for that matter, so why was I most looking forward to this one? I also don't like truffles. And this was a bigger portion than the first two dishes. In my 37th week of pregnancy, I didn't trust that my stomach would be able to handle this whole bowl plus the next two courses. I had to call it quits. And I'm soooo glad I did.
The Bison. The bison, bison, bison. If I didn't already have a favourite dish here (the short ribs, remember?) then this would be it. There wasn't a drop left on my plate when I was finished. Nor on M's plate either and oddly enough, we loved different things. I really thought that he would love the bison the best, but he was into the celeriac puree. This creamy, root vegetable, similar to a turnip, was pureed so fine it was almost a sauce. He'd have eaten a whole bowl of it had you offered it to him. I loved it too, a great change of scenery from the usual starch. But my bison was incredible. It was cooked perfectly, sous vide - which is very had to screw up - and had minimal seasoning. I mention that because it’s key. The meat is so tender and flavourful on its own that a sprinkle of s&p is all it needs. If you put steak spice on this you should just go jump off a bridge. The brussels sprouts are crispy and golden. The blackberry sauce is not overpowering and works well with the protein. Wow. I am a happy camper.
Seriously, there’s one more course still? I'm working at a decreased capacity here people - I don't know if I can do it!?
Of course I did it. It was painful walking to the car after, but I was not leaving this amazing dinner without eating dessert. I'm not much of a chocolate fan to be honest, but I gave this my best effort. We sort of joked about why the cake was flourless, but thinking of the rest of the menu there wasn't any other (obvious) gluten in the dishes. So maybe the chef did a GF cake so that everyone could eat it? Or was he just trying to be trendy? Either way, it was good. It was more dense and moist than a flour cake. The Nutella gelato was just fine, tasted like chocolate to me, but we both favoured the pistachio meringue. The crunchy sweet bits were a great reaction to the softness of the rest of the components.
Whew. I did it. I waddled out of there at a very slow speed, but with a smile on my face. I know it's not the last fancy dinner we'll have together but it was still symbolic to me. It's the end of an era, the beginning of a new course in life. I am grateful for my husband and everything he does for me and our growing family. I am thankful that he gave in to my demands for one last hurrah. Maybe next year I'll let him pick the restaurant. Maybe not though, not when Alloy is still around ;).
We are now taking applications for who wants to babysit next year?!