Lifestyle(Archives)

Nov
21
2012
Volume
-

Fort McMurray Food Fight

JON TUPPER
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Welcome to the Fort McMurray food fight; a restaurant review column where two restaurants are unknowingly pitted against each other in a 5-round, 3-course battle royale highlighting the good, the bad, and the great of our local food fare.

In this issue of Battle Royale we pit the Hearthstone Grill at the Sawridge Inn & Conference Centre against Table 63 at the Quality Inn. Both hotels have served this community for decades.

 

{slider=Round 1: Overall atmosphere}

 

The Hearthstone: My wife and I took our seats and immediately noticed that the restaurant had recently been renovated although the overall appearance of the staple Sawridge Inn remains unchanged. On the day of our visit, the Sawridge seemed to be having some problems with their air conditioning. With the temperature about 25 degrees inside, my wife and I felt slightly uncomfortable.



Table 63: Like the Hearthstone, Table 63 is adjacent to the hotel lobby. The restaurant has been extensively renovated with new furnishings and fixtures throughout. The lighting is easy on the eyes and it was difficult to notice we were in a hotel restaurant.



Result: The Hearthstone stumbles slightly while Table 63 makes no mistakes here. Table 63 leads after round 1.

 

{/slider}

{slider=Round 2: Service}

 

The Hearthstone: From our arrival to the final bill it is clear that the veteran service staff at the Hearthstone know how to please. We were seated quickly and asked if we would like anything to drink. We were given some time with the wine list before ordering a Pinot Noir. From start to finish the friendly staff made us feel like welcome guests. A very good start to round 2 for the Hearthstone.



Table 63: We were seated quickly and the very friendly staff took our drink order. I asked about a wine list and the server wasn’t sure if they even had a wine list. The manager produced a list and I ordered a Pinot Noir while my wife ordered a Caesar. When drinks arrived I was a bit surprised to be served a white wine. I was even more surprised when our server insisted that Pinot Noir is a variety of white wine. After I showed the server the wine-list, the problem was corrected swiftly. The service here was very friendly but our server could use a bit more training.



Result: The Hearthstone picks up the ground lost in Round 1 as Table 63 stumbles back from the wine problems.

 

{/slider}

{slider=Round 3: The appetizer}

 

The Hearthstone: We chose the calamari, which was quite nice. The Hearthstone serves this with their own tzatziki sauce but they admitted that the calamari was from a box. The flavours were nice and it was cooked properly. A solid performance.



Table 63: The spinach and artichoke dip was served in a ramequin topped with marbled cheese and warm naan bread. The cheese added a heaviness to the dish and contributed little so we ended up scraping it off and setting it aside. The star of this appetizer was the warm naan bread. I’m not sure if they made this in-house, or have sourced it out, but it was fresh, lightly scorched and brushed with clarified butter.



Result: Both fighters are holding their own as we head to the main course.

 

{/slider}

{slider=Round 4}

 

The Hearthstone: For my main course, I chose the braised lamb shank while my wife had the rib-eye steak. The lamb shank was served with mashed potatoes, green-beans almondine, and a navy-bean cassoulet. The shank was literally fall-off-the-bone tender with a robust demi-glace coating it for a beautiful meaty flavour. The beans almondine is a favourite of mine and was cooked al dente as it should be. The mashed potatoes took me by surprise. After tasting them repeatedly there was an unusual but oddly familiar tang lingering at the sides of my tongue. I couldn’t place it at first but, after several bites, confirmed that the flavour was horseradish. I’m still not sure how I feel about the horseradish infused mashed potatoes, but for those who appreciate a bit of zing with their food these are sure to delight. This was clearly a well-designed main course and executed with precision.



Table 63: To fight against braised lamb-shank, I had Table 63’s braised beef short-ribs while my wife had their steak sandwich. The short-ribs were served with a medley of seasonal vegetables, garlic mashed potatoes and a brown sauce which was not quite a gravy and not quite a demi-glace. The two fist-size short-ribs were unbelievably tender and moist with a big beefy flavour that made me pleased the portion size was so generous. The sauce brought a nice richness to the dish while the seasonal vegetables were cooked properly and the garlic mashed potatoes had a nice buttery background. The ribs were the shining star of this dish and the chef, smartly, played safe with the accompaniments.



Result: Both fighters are still giving it their all in this battle and this may come down to a technical decision at this point.

{/slider}

{slider=Round 5: Dessert}

 

At Table 63 our server recommended their apple pie with ice cream, which my wife and I split. The pie could have been served warmer and I was, frankly, a bit disappointed to learn that the apple pie was not made in-house.



At the Hearthstoneour server recommended a dish called Banana Foster Cheesecake. Let’s be clear about one thing—Banana Foster cheesecake is deep fried cheesecake. To further explain, banana foster is deep fried cheesecake wrapped in pastry, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and served with a caramel and cream sauce that is silky and subtle. The dish is rich, visually dramatic, and remarkably balanced; it is easily shared between two or three people.



Result: With the warm, mildly sweet cheesecake flavours enhanced by the fried pastry shell, the Hearthstone lands a calorie heavy and very rich knock-out punch after a well fought match by Table 63.
Both Table 63 and the Hearthstone grill are excellent restaurants even though there were a few areas to work on by both fighters. Both restaurants served impressive dishes that would be well suited for a date-night or an evening out with friends and relatives. They were similarly priced and, in both cases, dinner for two with a cocktail and wine came to around $140.00.

{/slider}


 

Pro-Tip: The next time you need to apologize to your significant other, skip the flowers and bring her some deep-fried cheesecake. Trust me on this.



A life-long lover of food and exploration, Jon Tupper has dined in venues ranging from dodgy truck stops in Belgium, to embassies in Trinidad and Tobago. Jon believes that food is more than just a collection of flavours, but a shared celebration of who we are and how we came together as a culture

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JON TUPPER

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