This week marked our first large snowfall of the season and the city shuddered to a grinding halt. Traffic has been increasing from bad to worse each day, and people are already swearing as they’re shoveling snow for the sixth time. The temperature plunged to a lovely seasonal -15 or so, and the howling wind has been adding to the ambience.
The weather also brought a homeless kitty to our doorstep. Whenever I see a cat outside near our house, I immediately rush out with a bowl of food. I can’t help it, it’s like a Pavlovian reflex. Often the cat is collared and belongs to one of the neighbors. In that case he has a snack and moves on. Occasionally it’s a stray, that pounces on the food like it’s going out of style and sometimes we even manage to get him over to the local vet which passes him on to the Humane Society.
This fluffy orange cat appeared sporadically through the summer, and has never let me approach him. Now that the weather is crap, he waits for me to come home every day and devours a whole can of wet food, and a handful of dry food besides. He won’t get near the food if I’m outside though, he’ll just sit ten feet away and look at me reproachfully as if to say ‘dude, my meal is getting cold’. I’m not sure when he begins his vigil, but the snow is usually melted under him by the time I come home from work. After a meal he cleans himself, waits twenty minutes or so, and wanders off.
Now that the weather is so cold I’m quite worried about him, so tomorrow will be operation trap the cat. We’ll leave food on the porch in a cat trap and see if he bites. With any luck we’ll come home to a scared orange cat in a cage. Then our plan is the usual – foster him and let some shelter adopt him out. He may just be glad to be out of the cold.
Here is an awful photo of my cat watchin him eat through the window. He is just a dark shadow bent over his bowl of food. What really ticks me off is that he’s definitely not feral. He seems quite cautious around me, but I’ve seen him approach local kids in the summer, and he’s somewhat socialized. Which means he likely had a home once.
Do you help any critters survive the harsh winters?
I was all prepared not to like District. The reason for this was threefold – one – a vaguely negative review by one of my favorite food blogs, the fact that I didn’t really like their samples at the Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival (not once, but twice!), and finally because most hyped restaurants disappoint me, some bitterly, others less so. They had a lot stacked against them.
The situation didn’t improve when I arrived, and burst out laughing upon recognizing that they occupy a former bar (Fox and Firkin) for those that recall those days. There I spent at least a couple of years of my youth drinking questionable drinks. I even have pictures, somewhere, (no doubt in a folder called ‘Evidence’), to be used by my future children.
The bar closed down several years ago and was something else before becoming District, so the space was renovated to unrecognizable, with a lovely wooden bar, fall-ish décor with copper, brick and gourds, and steel brewing tanks. I was also impressed by the fridge full of canned goods, which promised good things to come.
Many people have posted about slow to non-existent service at District, and they proceeded to oblige. While waiting fifteen minutes or so for my friend, I was not approached for a drink order, and after my friend arrived, we were promptly ignored by every passing waitress, studiously avoiding eye contact, for about 20 minutes. It was not just us, since ALL the tables in our area were left to look around for someone, anyone. Finally my friend got fed up and spoke to the bartender about sending someone over, at which point we proceeded to get good, congenial service from a gal who just started her shift.
So. District was on notice at this point, and not knowing whether the food would justify the rest, we proceeded to order a decent sample of dishes so as not to come back if it wasn’t worth it.
We started off with a charcuterie platter, served on the ubiquitous wooden cutting board. Ordering is done on a piece of paper, sushi-style, that contains all manner of delicacies, and we agreed on duck bacon, dry salami, olives and Riopelle cheese from Quebec. Served with awesome seed crackers, house chutney, pickles and something sweet that I can’t recall, it was a very good charcuterie plate. The salami was full of meaty flavor, not too smoky, properly salty, and in general far superior to the Elk Salami (which I tried on my second visit). The duck bacon was about as delicious as it sounds, and went oh so well with that berry concoction. The cheese was sublime and a treat in its own right. The pickles were perfectly crunchy, blissfully not sweet, not as good as mine, but not bad at all, and the relish was fantastic with the salty meats.
Another major win were the Guinness braised shortribs. Fall off the bone tender, deep mahogany in color, with beefy taste and a subtly sweet sauce they were absolutely divine, and I already crave them in anticipation for the winter ahead.
The poutine was a shade below sublime. On the plus side, the fries were hot, well cooked, fresh and the portion size just right. On the minus side, I prefer a more subtle gravy than the dark, concentrated one District uses, and I also prefer peeled, thicker cut fries. Would I order the poutine again? Absolutely, because when one is craving poutine this one will do nicely.
The burger was the least exciting, not the least because by then we were stuffed. But in the interest of scientific research, we dutifully eat most of our halves, and declared it – just fine. Not disappointing by any stretch, and no revelation either. Did I mention we were stuffed? It was fine, a decent burger. I’d choose shortribs anytime.
Stuffed to the brim with pretty rich dishes, (the lonely salad notwithstanding), we didn’t even contemplate dessert. Barely finishing my Creemore Springs took about all remaining energy, and a siesta seemed in order. Food coma would not be an inappropriate term to use.
So, given the pluses of the food and the service issues would I be back? I sure would. The food is everything it’s hyped up to be, local, seasonal, house-made with love and respect for the ingredients. Do they need to reconsider service? Yes, simply because it’s not a one-off.
Too many people online have mentioned it, and the second time I went back, our main dishes arrived before the charcuterie board. And we could see it sitting on the bar, lonely and abandoned for at least fifteen minutes. By the time it arrived, we were busy eating the hot food so it doesn’t get cold, and let’s face it, charcuterie has no appeal once you’re full. But the food is still worth it.
607 11 Ave SW
Growing up I barely appreciated soup. Sometimes we had it for supper, and I always felt like it was a lesser meal than a solid entree. Very much a meat-and-potato child at heart, I much preferred a ‘real meal’ to soup, and even my mother would never serve salad as anything other than a lovely side dish. Soup was for lunches, and even then I’d rather have something more filling.
When I was a teenager I spent less and less time at home, being always out with friends doing various nefarious things. Often meals were skipped, rushed or on such a budget that a dollar worth of fries would have to suffice. Shortly after turning twenty I moved out, and joyfully took over cooking my own meals, which consisted of a great deal of roast chicken and pastas. But slowly a certain lack appeared in my soul, a void of sorts, and that void cried to be filled up with soup. I’m sure my mother was surprised to learn that both her kids often chose soup as a meal, upon arriving for lunch or dinner, after disdaining it for many years.
Of course my favorite soups are all hearty, no wimpy broths or purees here, they are all chock full of veggies, grains and potatoes, with meat providing mainly the broth. They are very much a main dish affair, needing nothing more than a good crust of bread, sprinkled with cheese and broiled, if you’re feeling luxurious.
A few of my childhood soups are now firmly ensconced in my repertoire, a couple I have yet to master, and one I’ve made not once, but twice in the last two weeks. It’s a humble split pea soup, cooked with a smoked ham hock for a rich, golden broth, with smoky undertones. The ham hock needs a couple hours of simmering, so it’s perfect to make on a lazy weekend afternoon. It’s filling and delicious, perfect for our first cool fall evenings.
It starts with a simple pot of water and one smoked ham hock. You can skim the scum thoroughly or lazily, your choice.
(If you’re a vegetarian, I’d start with your favorite stock, the soup will take less than an hour, and you really should add a teaspoon of smoked paprika to the sauteeing veggies below. )
The ham hock needs at least two three hours to simmer, I start adding stuff when the meat is almost falling off the bones, at the two hour mark. The first ‘stuff’ to get added is about a cup of split peas. A cup will be good for a medium pot of soup. A regular large pot will need two cups. This is about where a half a tablespooon of salt will go in.
The split peas will take about 30-40 minutes to cook, which gives you time to prep some veggies. I typically use leeks, carrots, celery and a couple cloves of garlic.
Veggies get a brief sautee on medium high heat in a teaspoon of butter. If they start to lightly caramelize on the edges, that’s not a bad thing.
Dump them into the pot, and add two medium diced potatoes. Some people think this is a travesty. I say those people are very misguided. At a fine dice the potatoes will cook for about 15 – 20 minutes, and the soup is ready. (If you’re like me, this is where you’ll fish out the ham hock, strip the meat off the bone and plop it back in the soup.)
This is a soup that should be refrigerated, if for no other reason than to be able to skim the decent layer of fat that the ham hock produced. I always fail, and have a bowl as soon as its ready, then stick the cooled pot in the fridge, and wait for the next day to eat the rest in a guilt free fashion.