I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
I missed lunch.
It was past 2:00 pm and I was walking along 8th avenue in Calgary. I knew I had a big meal waiting for me at suppertime but I wanted to review at least two restaurants a day to make up for the single-day outings from the two previous days. I recognized a few places from my previous list that I could visit, but I feared too many would ruin my appetite…and then I stumbled across Home Tasting Room, known for smaller dishes and copious amounts of wine. And I do mean copious, as in profuse, as in the middle-act of the film Sideways.
This is the point—Home Tasting Room is a wine-centric restaurant, combining the drink with market-fresh sustainable food (pulled from their website). Sounds great…here’s the problem: I don’t drink alcohol.
It’s not because I’m a recovering addict or because my Mother used to whip me after a liter of box-o-wine because the meatloaf came out overdone (not true…she drinks port). The truth is I never developed a taste for it. That’s it. I would have a glass of bubbly on New Years and hated it every time. Champagne is not a gateway drink. I have sipped the odd hard liquor now and again but never felt I was missing something. Never have I been tipsy to the point of being horizontal. I made such a confession to my waiter as I sat down. He took the task to educate me…and educate me he tried.
Back to the restaurant, though, the décor is superb. A single long string of tables awaiting an obvious dinner reservation, a big bar with chefs working before my eyes, and wine glasses at every sitting. If this was my home town, they’d be coffee mugs. The theme is consistent, with rustic colors offset with stark contrast in green chairs.
I love it when I can watch chefs prepare food in front of me, so I sat at the bar. The menu was a simple selection of starters, lunch courses, and tasting options. The prices were definitely intimidating. A pulled pork sandwich for $16.50 better send me to the moon faster than Armstrong. Homemade Mac & Cheese for 17 bucks better send me to Jupiter faster than Kubrick (I could cull another comparison, maybe Alpha Centauri with Cameron…maybe not).
Anywho, after dishing out my sad tale of sobriety, the friendly and knowledgeable waiter with a panache for pronunciation rivaling that of a Scottish Shakespearean began explaining the do’s and don’ts (mostly do’s) about proper wine drinking. Of course, this involved the drinking of said wine. A smart reviewer would’ve written down brands. I, still classed as an amateur, did no such thing. They were various shades of red, all with a mild acidity to them, and my spine shuddered each time I swallowed. I followed all the patterns of a proper connoisseur.
After two quarter glasses, I moved up to a full glass, more than I’ve had in the previous ten years of my life, I kid you not. I have to point out, of course, that each and every glass I “sampled” was being tacked onto the bill. It was like walking into a sushi bar and shouting “omakase!” I could hear little cash register noises clacking each time the waiter popped a bottle.
Of course, I had to add food, and why not the $23 Charcuterie Tasting (local artisan and house made meats, preserves & condiments), which also happened to be the most expensive offering on the menu. This guy was a salesman of the highest order; thank Christ he wasn’t selling me a refrigerator or else I’d have gotten the one with LED lighting, an ice maker, and a resident butcher. The final bill came to damned near $50…for what accounted to little more than a snack. I definitely got poured the good stuff. Did I appreciate it? How could I, I never drink wine. I had to take his word on it. I enjoyed the experience while I was sitting, and didn’t feel cheated as I left. I’m still not much a wine drinker and thank Odin I wasn’t driving after. I carried quite the buzz as I exited Home Tasting Room—expected for a virgin drinker after what amounted to little more than two glasses of wine.
I did feel left out of place slightly. Home Tasting Room is for couples and parties, not for single men wandering in from a hot Calgary afternoon. Still, it was an experience to remember and I enjoyed it for what it was. I know wine drinking is not for the faint hearted or the light wallet’ed, so I don’t expect this to become a habit anytime soon.
If you think you can identify the brands, you are more than welcome to check the video I took here…