I suppose if I’m ever going to talk about eating out in Calgary, I should mention how I rate restaurants. First of all, I’m completely unscientific and due to budget constraints that professionals don’t have, I can’t visit a restaurant four or five time to assess a composite score. Like every person I am entirely subjective and my favorite may elicit only a shrug from you, and vice versa.
While a nice ambience is lovely, food is far and away the most important thing to me. I will live with grimy windows, a smoking kitchen, indifferent service (I draw the line at rude), as long as the food is worth it. What is worth it to me? Honest food. Food prepared in such a way as to showcase the best of it’s attributes. It can be simple or complicated, high-end or hole-in-the-wall, but it has to have an honest relationship to itself.
That’s a hard thing to quantify, but I think every diner can spot a fake from a mile away. Whether it’s inauthentic or westernized ethnic food, ingredients completely out of season, indifferently prepared ingredients with no thought of bringing out the best in them, under-seasoned dishes and gargantuan portions of mediocrity, we all know when we’re in the presence of a big heap of ‘I don’t care’.
Most people I know would far rather go to a little out of the way joint with little ambience but lovingly prepared meals than the fanciest pretentious buffet. That is not to say that high-end restaurants can’t be good, but I’ll be honest, I’ve been disappointed with much of Calgary’s fine dining. And more than disappointed, I’ve been crushingly let down by Calgary’s mainstream restaurant reviewers. So many times I read reviews online where I can find them, pick a place that sounds great, go there and be baffled by the crappy food while the clipped newspaper review is glowingly posted on the front door.
I aim to eat locally grown food (ideally grown organically), and I eat only humanely raised meat from local farmers. That is a stance I take based on a strong desire to not cause undue suffering to an animal whose life will sustain me. However this is not a stance I can hold on to while I review restaurants since that would leave me with about two restaurants (okay three or four) to ever choose from. I simply choose to dine out less frequently and cook mainly at home.
Often when I go out I try to find the gold in restaurants, mainly by asking the staff about their favorites. No one place does everything well, so to find the one dish that makes you come back again and again is totally worth it in my books. Apparently I like one trick ponies as long as it’s a good trick. 🙂
Having said all that, I passionately love good food especially eaten with friends and family, and I’d love to showcase some of my favorite places to eat since Calgary has precious few culinary gems. So without further ado, here’s how I rate food related establishments.
• you made me squeal with delight!
• I’d drive across the city for you!
• I’m going to call my friends and insist they go here yesterday!
• I’ll weep bitter tears if you leave (cough cough Red Saffron)
• it’s been a pleasure to meet you
• I’ll go a bit out of my way to find you
• You’re within reach of greatness, reach for the stars!
• the state of most food offerings in Calgary
• You are unfulfilled potential
• I’d go here if you’re cheap and I’m close
• I’m sure some trucker loves you
• I’ll eat here if there’s nothing else available
• You’re all business, no soul
• I cannot believe I paid money for this
• Even sentimental value can’t save you
• The world would be a better place if you weren’t in it