A head chef to write HOME about

It’s Wednesday night and we’re driving downtown for dinner at Stephen Avenue’s latest hot spot HOME Tasting Room. Usually downtown Calgary is a ghost town on weekdays but not tonight. Between a Flames game and theatre season Stephen Avenue is in full swing — and parking is not fun. You’ve been forewarned.

Arriving at HOME we discover a large room. Even though the room is one-third full it feels empty in comparison to the size of the space. Based on the name I was hoping for a cozier more intimate setting. But like any review night we’re not here for the room — we’re here to see what HOME is serving up.

Once seated and greeted by our server we’re informed of the night’s features and asked for our drink selections. We go with a glass of Sur De Los Andes Torrontes — a vibrant white wine at a decent price ($9 per glass).

At my husband’s urging we kick off our meal with the organic sea salt potato chips and fresh herb dip ($12). It’s a simple dish of house-made lightly salted potato chips with a thick creamy dip. Served in a small mason jar the herb dip is fresh with flavour but it could stand to be a tad less thick. It’s not an ideal dip for chips; it’s more of a spread. Next time I’ll go with the cheese plate with lavender honey roast shallot chutney and HOME crackers instead ($20).

HOME has a wide range of tasting plates from charcuterie platters and oysters to rock crab ravioli and bison tartar. We decide on the Qualicum Bay scallops ($18) for our second dish. The presentation is lovely. Served on a white plate the dish features four scallops on a cauliflower puree bordered by crispy bacon and anchovy pesto. We put a little bit of everything on our forks and have a bite. The flavour combination is fantastic — a nice mix of sweet tangy and salty. The scallops are perfectly cooked and the HOME bacon (Broek Acres pork smoked in-house) is salty perfection.

Classified as large dinner plates the entrees at HOME are the highlight of our experience. Tonight I’m having the Noble Farm duck breast with “cassoulet risotto” ($26). The duck breast is lovely cooked to a perfect medium-rare and fanned across the top of the risotto. Like the French dish the cassoulet risotto incorporates chunks of cured pork and bacon in a properly cooked risotto (not mushy not crunchy). The combination of ingredients is magnifique and well executed.

For his main dish my husband orders the Spring Creek natural beef short rib ($26). The succulent portion of beef comes perched on a stack of scalloped potatoes with grilled sunchokes. These aren’t your mom’s scalloped potatoes — they aren’t creamy or gooey. They taste more like assembled layers of crisp baked potato — very homey.

And the beef is wonderful too. Rich in flavour and ultra-tender — this dish wins on a number of levels.

For dessert we indulge in coffee and doughnuts ($7). The dish consists of two sugar-dusted house-made doughnuts with chocolate filling and is served with your choice of espresso latte or a regular cup of joe. It’s a delightful end. The doughnuts are warm soft and sweet and they taste even better with the latte.

Overall our night at HOME is very good. Beyond an awkward hostess and some spatial issues our experience is great. Lead by executive chef Geoff Rogers the cuisine at HOME is thoughtful locally focused and exceptionally executed. I will definitely visit again in the spring to see what the new season brings.