Thursday, March 11, 2010

tame evening at The Wildflower Grill

This week is Edmonton's Downtown Dining Week. Restaurants, pubs, and eateries of all sorts are offering signature tasting menus at set prices for lunch and dinner. I thought I'd seize this chance and invite a friend out to try this place. I had scoured their lovely web site a few months back and was eager to try out their so-called new Canadian cuisine. The menu is plump with Alberta beef, lamb, and game meat like venison and bison. Lots of sumptuous and colourful local winter vegetables like carrots, beets, and butternut squash also feature prominently in the accompaniments that bloom on each big, white plate.

My dining companion this evening was a new friend. She is very visually inclined,
and has flawless style to boot, so I knew she would enjoy this experience. The ambiance, we agreed, was perfect for the evening. Subtle tones and good rhythms played not too loud struck the perfect note in our cosy booth. Our server, Renee, was attentive but not intrusive, knowledgeable, and very genial. While I poured over the menu, selecting my food before choosing a wine, she brought organic, loose leaf peppermint tea for my friend, served in a French press. In the end I decided on a glass of the 2007 Road 13 Honest John's Merlot. I'm not normally a big Merlot drinker, but it was the only Canadian red being offered by the glass and I thought this new Canadian cuisine concept should apply to my glass as well.

My friend decided to order from the select menu choices that are part of the Dining Week promotion. Being a bit of a pain in the ass, and having to be difficult, I chose to order something I had my eye on from when I first perused the menu online, months ago.

My friend had the mixed vegetable salad with golden and red beets, and heirloom carrots and tomatoes. There was no overwhelming vinaigrette outshining the natural sweetness of the beets and carrots. Kudos to the chef for allowing these much-maligned roots to be the real feature of the dish. The nicest touch on her plate was the bright little flower petals that were dashed across the salad. I had the heirloom tomato and truffled buffalo mozzarella salad. Have I mentioned how much I am into buffalo mozzarella? With all the bison meat out here I am amazed I cannot find any of this cheese sourced locally... I'll give full credit to anyone out there that can find me some. The dish was served with side microgreens in a baked cheese basket; the plate artfully drizzled with balsamic vinegar reduction and olive oil. I will admit that I found my tomatoes a bit on the mushy side, though this could just be due to the availability of fresh heirloom tomatoes at this time of year.

Not surprisingly, the presentation of our mains was equally magnificent. My friend revealed to me that she is not fond of the big plate-little food style that is so popular in fine dining kitchens these days, but I love it. The food becomes the real focal point. Extra space on the plate gets used for artful displays of purees, reductions, and gravity defying vegetable towers. Though my friend found the applewood cured bacon that surrounded her Atlantic cod to be a little overpowering, she appreciated that careful preparation of the fish, it not being overcooked. The portion disappointed her. My bison tenderloin was beautifully arrayed in slices atop a serving of shallot and butternut squash puree. The chantrelle, fig, and smoked cheddar bread pudding tasted more like stuffing to me than anything else. But I do love fig and I thought it was an inventive compliment to the bison.

While we were both somewhat under whelmed by our entrees, the chefs at the Wildflower Grill certainly redeemed themselves with their dessert menu. Selections are presented thematically: Lemon, Berries, Chocolate, or Fruit. Each choice comes with various incarnations of the theme and a suggested aperitif is listed. We decided to share the Fruit dessert which came with fresh granny smith apple slices, sour cherry tart, mango sorbet, grilled pineapple, candied pear, and lavender blackberry crème brulee. The custard in the brulee was perfectly set and delicately flavoured. The pears were sweet and juicy while retaining much of their fresh, grainy consistency. Everything on the large white plate was so delightfully well thought out and put together. Had we chosen it, the suggested 2006 Vineland Estates Vidal Icewine from Niagara would have been a perfect pairing.

I think I would like to return to the Wildflower Grill. I'll make different menu selections next time. I might come back for brunch or lunch instead, and see if that makes any difference to the taste and feel of things. It was certainly a very high-end price considering our thoughts and feelings on the meal as a whole.

Wildflower Grill is located at 10009 –107 Street NW
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 1J1
T: 780 990 1938 F: 780 990 1887

1 comment:

  1. Buffalo mozzarella is actually made from the milk of water buffaloes :)
    You'll have a hard time finding it around here :)