For the most part I’m a pretty healthy guy. My diet consists mostly of a steady flow of fresh vegetables, fruits, chicken breast, salmon, almonds and a daily glass or two of wine. Once in a while however, you just need to throw yourself at the mercy of the gods of gluttony and recharge your soul with some good ol’ fashioned comfort food. No calorie counting, no regrets, just glorious, uninhibited indulgence. When that mood strikes me, I go for the gusto. So without delay, here are my 5 favourite comfort foods in Calgary:
Pear, Pine Nut and Gorgonzola Pizza – Cilantro (www.crmr.com/cilantro)
There’s good reason why Cilantro restaurant on 17th Ave has been a landmark in the Calgary food scene for over 20 years…they deliver consistent, high quality, delicious food at a reasonable price. There is nothing more comforting to me on a beautiful Summers evening then a glass of wine, good company and one of these delicious pizza’s from their wood-fired oven. I seriously cannot step foot in the door without ordering this dish. The melted, salty blue cheese is off-set perfectly by the sweetness of the pear, while the roasted pine nuts and fresh ground pepper add a savoury quality that is like a warm hug for the tongue. I love to see the scrunched up faces of professed blue cheese haters turn to wide-eyed joy when they taste this. Perfection.
Chili Goma Ramen – Shikiji (www.shikiji.ca)
This belly filling soup was one of Calgary’s best kept culinary secrets for some time. Originally off the menu, those in the know would make a special request for this delicious soup. Although it is no longer a secret, it is still one of my favourite bites in the city and I’ve turned more than one friend into addict with a steady craving for the rich and spicy ramen goodness. Although I can tackle one of these on my own, many people find that the decadent broth and ample quantities of succulent shiitake mushrooms and pork make this a dish for two. If you live in Calgary you need to do yourself a favour and make the trek up centre street to try out this feast for the senses. 1608 Centre Street North.
Almond Croissant – Yann Haut Patiserrie (www.yannboutique.com)
Belgian baker Manuel Latruwe had long-held the crown as the undisputed king of pastries and bread in the eyes of many Calgarians, but a recent addition in the form of an unassuming yellow house tucked off the main drag in the heart of Mission has caused lovers of all things decadent to stand up and take notice. Owner/pastry master Yann Blanchard is in my eyes a Picasso of pastry…or the captain of the starship SS Delicious! Although his Macaron’s are exquisite and his pan au chocolat are seductive, the item that has my heart is his Almond Croissant. Perfectly fluffy pastry hugs a centre of creamy almond goodness. I thought that the Bouchon Bakery in St. Helena, Napa Valley, California made the best almond croissant ever. I humbly retract that statement. All hail Yann, the new king of pastry in cow town.
Croque Monsieur – l’Epicerie (www.dominquemoussu.com)
*Warning* this isn’t for the faint of heart. Imagine the greek god Zeus hurling a lightening bolt into the sky. Imagine that lightening bolt made contact with all things delicious simultaneously. Now imagine the smoldering wreckage of that collision falls to the earth in a hot, gooey, steaming pile of orgasmic delight and is molded by angels into a brick whose sole purpose is to ignite every pleasure centre in your body. That, my friends, is the culinary creation known as Dominique Moussu’s Croque Monsieur. You cannot ask…you must experience. Make sure you are hungry and possibly hung-over. It is not a light and airy meal. You will never be the same.
Chicken Shish Taouk – Tazza (www.tazzafresh.com)
Although I’ve only recently discovered this Calgary landmark in the belt line neighborhood of Bridgeland, each beautiful summers afternoon now has me craving one of these delicious wraps enjoyed in the comfort of the Tazza patio. Juicy, perfectly seasoned chicken swims in a sea of fresh vegetables and garlic sauce, wrapped in a cocoon of warm, grilled pita. Affordable,fresh and delicious. What more can you ask for? Enjoy with an ice-cold can of San Pellegrino Limonata and wait for your soul to weep. That is all.
These are just a few suggestions for those seeking solace in the comfort of a good meal. Just like your mother made it…only better…but don’t tell her I said that..I’ve seen her wield a spatula.