Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Oh tragedy! After going to the Dish day one of Fork Fest (review coming), I forgot to recharge my camera and thus have no pictures of my delicious meal at the Red Ox Inn from last night. I will make an effort to describe my meal in as much detail as possible, but I guess now you will all have to go and see it for yourself, and that's not a bad thing.
Although the regular menu at Red Ox is fantastic, I couldn't pass up the Fork Fest deal. The Red Ox website has the special menu posted under Upcoming Events, or you can find it at the Original Fare website. It offers some choice, which is nice, and between my husband and I we tried most of it.
Finding the restaurant can be a bit of a trick. It's a little off the beaten track, nestled into a sort of strip mall in the middle of residential Strathern (by where Folk Fest is held). Make sure you take the address with you. Walking in, it is a bit surprising that the restaurant itself is so tiny. The dining area is L shaped, and only has about 10 - 15 tables, depending on how they are arranged. There are three booths (one at each end and in the corner), and then wooden tables for two span between them. The decor is very simple and elegant. It is cozy, but having been there a number of times, most diners keep the atmosphere pretty intimate. That being said, about half way through our meal last night there was a woman with a voice that carried through the restaurant, and we were able to follow all of her conversation from a few tables away (so sorry to point fingers if this was you, but it can happen).
My husband started by ordering a beer, and myself a glass of the Malbec. I enjoyed it, but as mentioned in the past, I have pretty much zero skills in the wine connoisseur department. I just like wine.
We started with one goat cheese salad (him) and one mushroom soup (me). The salad was pretty much as one would expect. The goat cheese is served as a warm gooey medallion perched on top of spinach, almonds, bacon, and dried cranberries with a port dressing. It nicely combines some very strong flavors. The soup was excellent. It was creamy, and the mushrooms were pureed as opposed to being left in chunks. It had a bit of a peppery taste, and was topped with a gruyere-mushroom rye crostini that added a nice bit of crunch. The earlier-mentioned woman a few tables down proclaimed it to be the best soup she had ever had. The portions were appropriately sized given that two more courses were to follow.
For mains, we both went for the pork. We are the kind of people that always seem to forgo pasta or fish at restaurants in favor of meat. I guess that makes us true Albertans? I did see the Arctic char and it looked nice, and was even tempted for a moment given that I do like ratatouille quite a lot. The pork chop did not disappoint though. It was served with the bone still attached, and it was roughly the size of two of my girl fists (huge). It was cooked to perfection, with a tiny bit of pink juice keeping it tender and moist. The Moroccan BBQ sauce and fruit chutney were a lovely break from some of the winter flavors that we typically see. It was tangy and tropical tasting, and I loved it. My husband wasn't quite as taken with the chutney, but he generally does not deviate from the Canadian fruit trilogy of apples, oranges and bananas - I know, I could just cry over it! The chop was served with herbed rice, which was fairly plain, as rice tends to be, but it did absorb the additional sauce nicely. There was also a light colored savory cabbage that contrasted the sweetness of the chutney and sauce nicely, and some steamed veggies, including carrots, broccoli, and green beans that were all cooked well. I enjoyed the fact that this dish was a bit different than the typical winter comfort food. I felt like it woke me up a bit. It was a bit larger than I needed, and I ended the evening a bit too full, but can you really complain about that? Also, my husband was pleased at the portion size as he is quite annoyed when high end restaurants leave him feeling hungry at the end of a meal.
To finish, I gave the blueberry and white chocolate bread pudding a try, after reading rave reviews from a fellow food enthusiast on Chowhound. My hubby stuck with the warm chocolate cake, a previous favorite of both of ours. Both of them were absolutely delicious! Generally I am a huge chocolate lover, but the warm bread pudding, in a pool of decadent creme anglaise did not leave me disappointed. The texture was divine. It felt satisfyingly substantial without feeling too heavy, and in contrast the crème seemed delicate. My husband gobbled the chocolate cake down before I had a chance to steal a bite, but having eaten it before, I know that it too somehow manages to be luxuriously rich, while not seeming too dense. Oh thank goodness I am not able to replicate this at home or I would be severely overweight.
The wait staff at the Red Ox Inn is truly what professional wait staff should be like. They float around so that they are readily available should you need anything, yet they go to great lengths to make sure they are not interrupting your conversations to ask you how your first bite was. I appreciate that when I am out for a nice dinner.
All in all, the Red Ox is still one of my favorite dining spots, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a nice high end dining experience, especially when Fork Fest is running and there is extra value to be had.