ThisIsNotWinebar – Land Wanderers and The Unborn

Calgary had one of the most interesting kitchen takeovers for the past four weeks.  Winebar Kensington was taken over by Chef Brandon Baltzey of TMIP Restaurant (opening soon!) and it got transformed into ThisIsNotWinebar.  A new menu was introduced each week featuring only ingredients and wines from Western Canada and it was funky, innovative and fun.  K and I were only able to make it for week 3 (initially anyway) and I’ve had my palate changed forever… I’ve never had this type of food before and I loved it so much that I can’t believe this was only for four weeks!  I do have to say it sounds a bit over the top on paper, but as I am quite adventurous and love trying new food I was able to eat with an open mind and got rewarded with some of the best food I have ever eaten.

With this week’s theme, the land wanderers, you had to eat with your hands/fingers.  No joke.  I asked our waitress if anyone has asked for or sneaked in utensils, and she said surprisingly no.  I then asked her, what would you do if someone did sneaked in their own utensils? She then said, I’ll have to keep my eyes on you two now and grinned at us.  We did no such thing, but I was curious!

Winebar - Menu

Week 3 Menu

Winebar - Owl

Cute little owl accompanying our dinner.  Can you actually eat an owl? *cue horrid looks from hubby and my brother when I asked them this

Since there were only the two of us we had to be conservative with our choices.  As we didn’t know what the portions were like we decided to just start with two items and work from there.

Winebar - Bison Heart Steak and Lamb Brains

Bison Heart Steak and Lamb Brains – $22

Winebar - Bison Heart Steak

Close-up of Bison Heart Steak

Topped with a white gravy, this was a very hearty portion for the two of us to share.  The taste and texture slightly reminds of tongue.  It was definitely very meaty, lean and had a bit of a gamey taste to it.  I thought white gravy is normally served with chicken, but it totally worked here.  It was light, savoury and didn’t take away the main flavor of the meat.

Winebar - Braaaaaaaaaaaains (1)

Close-up of Lamb Brain

Then there’s this beauty.  First time I’ve eaten anyone’s brains! If I wasn’t told that it was brains, I probably wouldn’t have known.  It looks like it was pan seared?

Winebar - Braaaaaaaaaaaains (2)

Even closer!

All I could think about was Plants vs. Zombies as I was eating this. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart as everyone else who I’ve told this to made a sneering face every time.  The texture is soft, jiggly, ultra-smooth, and silken-like.  It’s not like anything I’ve ever had before and I definitely enjoyed it.

Winebar - Board

Board – $26

A great selection featuring more protein! There was a generous portion of each item served with slices of bread (I couldn’t remember if it was baked in house).

Winebar - Housemades

Beef Tongue Pastrami, housemade mustard and pickles/beet root

The beef tongue were thinly sliced and grilled.  It was seasoned nicely and didn’t taste too different from regular beef.  The texture was soft, fatty, and I wouldn’t mind eating a sandwich stacked with a ton of it! The housemade mustard was very strong but went with the ham pate very well.  The pickled vegetables were great as it is.

Winebar - Lamb Face Rilette

Lamb Face Rillette

I’ve never had lamb face meat so I don’t know how it taste compared to the body.  There was no gaminess (from the lamb) at all in this rillette.  I also love the creaminess of this mixture – I’m not even going to guess how much fat was in here to achieve that result.

Winebar - Ham Pate

Ham Pate

For a pate, this was definitely unusual as it was more like a ham cake/meatloaf to me.  It was very packed with intense pork flavors.

Winebar - Chicken Liver Pate

Chicken Liver Pate

I don’t eat liver in its normal form, yet I don’t mind it as pate.  This was airy and had a mousse like consistency.  It was also very buttery and smooth.  The flavors were quite rich and intense but I like that it wasn’t too salty – a problem I have encountered in the past when eating it at other restaurants.

Winebar - Elk Tartar

Elk Tartar

We both love tartares and we were allover this.  It was packed with onion bits and seasoned very well.  I’ve had tartare before where it was underseasoned or worst, season it myself and I didn’t enjoy that.  The meat was slightly chewy with a good bite to it.  Hmmmmm.

This was quite a bit of food for the both of us and as much as we wanted to, we could not fit another order in.  Everything we had tonight was just so different from the usual, and absolutely tasty.  I am kicking myself really hard for not going to Week 1 and 2… I feel like I’ve missed out big time! Argh.

After seeing the week 4 menu and pictures on twitter, I just had to make a deliberate trip there on their last day.  Since I work with some foodies it wasn’t hard to convince one of them to go with me :)

This week utensils was allowed.

Winebar - Grits

Poached Guinea Hen Egg, Soft-Boiled Hen Egg, Popcorn Grits, Roe – $9

This is more like a breakfast dish to me, but who says you can’t eat breakfast for dinner? The grits were super creamy and quite savoury – it was best to break the yolks from the egg and mix it up to eat it that way.  The salmon roe is naturally salty and it just added tiny bursts of saltiness with each spoonful of the creamy mixture.

Winebar - Mushrooms

Mushrooms on a Log – $17

S was interested to see what the log in this dish was, and it turned out to beef brisket! Braised to absolute tenderness, accompanied by bits of fried fennel and an assortment of mushrooms – this was a very flavorful dish.  I don’t really know what that sauce was, but it was really tasty and brought all the components together! S couldn’t get enough of it and was happy with her choice.

Winebar - Ravioli

Quail Egg and Ricotta Ravioli – $3/ea

Since it was sold by piece, I had to get one to try.  I may not like ricotta in cannoli, but I sure do like it in savory dishes! The beauty of this ravioli is when you bite into it, the egg yolk just breaks open and gently oozes into your mouth.  It also gave a creamy texture as it mixes into the ricotta.  I’ll say this again – I love runny egg yolks!

Winebar - Fettuccine

Bee Pollen Fettuccine, Caramelized Honey, Buttermilk Braised Pork – $16

This has got to be my favorite dish of the night, although I love every dish equally, but there was something about the sauce that I couldn’t get enough of.  It was really tasty and had a pleasant sweetness to it from the bee pollen and honey.  The fettuccine was made in house, naturally, and cooked to tender.  The pork was very tender so minimal chewing was required.  The edible flowers added dashes of vibrant colors to the entire dish so it was very visually appealing.  I know I could’ve ate another two plates of this but my stomach said no.

Winebar - Panna Cotta

Fennel Pollen Panna Cotta, Chamomile, Roe – $14

As I love panna cotta, I had to order this.  When our waitress placed this down, she told us that the dish was savoury.  Hmmm… I was a bit worried b/c I wasn’t expecting a salty panna cotta? Thank goodness it wasn’t.  The fennel was quite interesting – reminds me of star anise.  A bit licorice-like, yet also mildly sweet.  Eating the panna cotta with the bits of salmon roe, sponge toffee and fennel was sure interesting.  The result is a creamy, sweet and savoury combination.  Some may find it weird, but it totally worked and I will never look at panna cotta the same way again.

Winebar - Ice Cream

Cherry Wood ice cream, Chicory Root, Poppy Seed – $8

S decided she wanted to try the other dessert and this was it! The cake was packed with poppy seeds and flavored with chicory root.  I wasn’t sure if I’d like it at first (I’m not fond of poppy seeds) but this was so good – especially when you eat it with the ice cream!

Again, fabulous, fabulous meal.  So happy that I made it for week 4 though I’m still sad that I missed weeks 1 and 2.  We loved everything we tried tonight and can’t believe we will never see this menu again! Even though our waitress said that the Chef will never come back again… I hope she’s wrong as I patiently await for his return.  This was not his first visit to Calgary and I sure hope it won’t be his last! :p

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