Getting high at SAIT

My boyfriend and I recently visited SAIT’s Highwood Dining Room to experience the live classroom environment for Calgary’s budding chefs and mixologists. We nestled in to enjoy the extremely reasonable five-course fall dinner menu ($42 per person) served and prepared by the institute’s students.

Though this is a working classroom the space looks and feels like a proper restaurant. Taking in the spacious room of subtle décor our courteous drink server greets us and says that pina coladas are the feature drink of the night. The Highwood drink menu is basic and focuses on cocktail and martini standards in addition to offering a good selection of wines at great prices. I try a glass of Highwood’s private label white blend from B.C. ($6) my boyfriend has an old-fashioned ($5).

Shortly after getting our drinks our food server introduces himself and we order our first four courses from the thoughtfully crafted menu. To start we try the roasted butternut squash and ricotta ravioli. Tossed in a white truffle oil broth and cooked to a perfect al dente the pockets are delectable. They are topped with a generous helping of mouthwatering Parmesan shavings.

We also get the beautifully presented smoked salmon and Yukon gold potato and cream cheese terrine. The chilled salmon garnished with langoustine tails is creamy dreamy and goes well with the fresh frisée greens. Plated with drizzles of Styrian pumpkin seed oil and white balsamic vinegar the dish is stunning.

For the soup course we try the green pea and garlic velouté and the roasted chicken and barley broth. The classically made chicken soup is chock full of heartwarming ingredients and seasoned with rosemary and citrus notes. The green pea soup is stellar. Drizzled with a saffron cream we are enraptured by the thick rich flavour.

For salads my boyfriend chooses Highwood’s take on the caesar. Topped with two full slices of crisp maple bacon and chunks of shaved Parmesan this salad is a class act. Tossed in the house-made dressing with large crunchy croutons we are impressed by how good a classic caesar salad can be.

I try the roasted root vegetable salad topped with arugula and drizzled with Saskatoon berry vinegar and first cold-pressed canola oil. The medley of diced beets and carrots is surprisingly light and refreshing.

For my entree I get the herb-crusted Alberta lamb rack chops with a braised lamb shoulder crépinette and rosemary-perfumed blueberry reduction. The lamb is stupendous wonderfully tender and perfect with the reduction. The crépinette makes use of every inch of the lamb shoulder and is wrapped in steamed cabbage. Served with potatoes au gratin fresh baby carrots and beans this is one heck of a value.

My boyfriend tries the pan-roasted tenderloin of pork with apple compote and a pork hock cassoulet with white beans tomatoes and fresh herbs. He dives in smiles and says it’s the best pork and beans you’ll ever have. And he’s right. The beans are slow-roasted and soft the pork hock is smoky and the pork tenderloin is tasty.

At the end of an already great dining experience we move on to the night’s dessert menu. I go with the pumpkin brulée with spice cake and a white chocolate marble stick. My boyfriend orders the apple tartlet with cinnamon rum ice cream. The desserts exceed our expectations and to top it all off we are treated to a last tiny course of homemade chocolates and candies. How sweet it is.

For $42 per person and with an extremely reasonable liquor menu you should be calling the Highwood Dining Room right now for your next special occasion. There is a wait of a month or so for reservations but it’s well worth it.