Monday, May 27, 2013

“Cibo molto buona” at Cucina

Top Chef Canada Season 3 Contestants Danny Smiles,
Nicole Gomes, Jonathan Goodyear (Dennis Tay not
pictured but he was there), Moo and my female human
Although we arrived in Calgary in the afternoon on Saturday, we still wanted to try to hit Cucina for brunch as we’d heard good things about them from our foodie friends in Edmonton, and @littlemissandrea’s review spoke highly of their brunch. The Teatro Group, who also own Teatro, Vendome Café and Carne – a seasonal street meat stand that I visited on a previous trip to Calgary - owns Cucina – Italian for kitchen. The restaurant was a short distance from the hotel we were staying at, Hotel LeGermain, making it easy for us to dash from the Red Arrow office downtown when we arrived at noon, check in at Hotel LeGermain, meet our friend @bluebirdsy, then head on over to Cucina.

Sheldon Simeon (Top Chef Seattle Finalist), John Jackson
of Charcut, Connie DeSousa (Top Chef Canada Season 1
Finalist) of Charcut and Moo
Brunch at Cucina is a first come, first serve affair, and is only served Saturdays from 10am – 3pm. Dining with @bluebirdsy can sometimes be a tricky since she’s vegetarian, but Cucina actually had a good number of items that were vegetarian friendly. Surprisingly enough, there was no line up when we got there just after 12:30pm and were seated quickly. We had an attentive and adorable server who was wearing a Team Nicole button (Nicole Gomes - a contestant on Top Chef Canada Season 3), and instantly made us feel at home. Adorable in the sense that she was incredibly enthusiastic about the restaurant, obviously loved her job, and shared little tidbits of knowledge about the restaurant with us at every turn from the little bent over spoons hooked onto our napkins – they were those miniature spoons that can be found at tourists shops, all with the names of different places on them - to the drawings on the wall opposite of the washrooms – notes and thoughts on dishes and plating from Executive Chef of The Teatro Restaurant Group, John Michael MacNeil’s notebook, stolen by the designer and recreated on the wall of the restaurant.

Wild BC Mushrooms on Toast with Poached Eggs
Coincidently enough, Top Chef Canada Season 3 contestants Chefs Nicole Gomes, Danny Smiles, Jonathan Goodyear and Dennis Tay arrived at Cucina shortly after we ordered. I managed to introduce myself and get a picture taken with most of them, except for Dennis Tay, who had just stepped away before I managed to get to their table. They were as friendly as they appeared on TV and our server took the picture for us, confiding in our table later that when she saw Nicole Gomes walk through the door, Nicole had spotted the Team Nicole button she was wearing before she could hide it with her hand. It was a great way to start a weekend getaway to Calgary!

Chicken and Waffles Eggs Benedict
Oddly enough, we actually started and ended our trip with Top Chef encounters. We had the fastest supper we’ve ever eaten at Charcut just before we had to catch the Red Arrow home to Edmonton later that weekend. Chefs Connie DeSousa, Top Chef Canada Season 1 finalist and John Jackson – often referred to as “#theotherchef” on Twitter - her partner in crime at Charcut, came over to our table to say hi and introduce us to Chef Sheldon Simeon, a finalist on Top Chef Seattle. They had been doing a #chefscollaborate event at Charcut that weekend called “PigandPoke”, described as “Pig meets Maui meets Poutine”.

Fried Gnocchi Hash
But I digress, back to the meal at Cucina! We started the brunch with ricotta fritters, which were similar in shape and size to timbits, only much lighter, and served warm with apricot jam. Next the wild BC mushrooms and poached eggs on toast with shallot white wine reduction, black pepper and parmigiano. The toast was crispy enough to hold up to the heaps of mushrooms but soft enough to easily bite through, while the poached egg was perfectly poached soft, oozing over the huge chunks of tender, earthy tasting mushrooms like a sauce.

Drawings out of Executive Chef
John Michael MacNeil's Notebook
Meanwhile the market benedict of the day was chicken and waffles served with Cucina hollandaise. The chicken was moist, while the egg covered all the elements, and each bite was the perfect harmony of savory, mildly sweet and creamy. Lastly the crispy gnocchi hash with green onion had a crispy exterior but were still pillow light and a delectable accompaniment to the mains.

Overall, the portions were large without being over sized, the food was moolicious, and the service went over and above. I would most definitely visit Cucina again and look forward to my next visit to Calgary to try out their lunch and dinner.

More photos at PhotoBucket!

Eighth Avenue Place
515 8th Avenue SW

Calgary, AB T2P 3S8

Twitter: @EatCucina

Cucina on Urbanspoon

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