The roots of dining

Remembering the past to create the present

If you offered me brioche foie and caviar every day for a year I’d politely decline. As much as we dream about eating an impeccably prepared meal using the best ingredients served under silver domes on top of white linen I am ultimately more comfortable eating something simple and straightforward. Considering the number of bistros and diners that have opened up in the last eight months such as Yellow Door Bistro and Monki Breakfast Club and Bistro it seems that many Calgarians would agree with me.

Bistro Rouge the new casual little sister to the fine-dining bastion Rouge is a shining example of responding to the desires of diners. Even as Rouge celebrated its 12th birthday just three years after being ranked the 60th best restaurant in the world chef and owner Paul Rogalski doesn’t see a new venue like Bistro Rouge as an easy score. It is instead a way to challenge the status quo.

“Doing a project like Bistro Rouge has offered me another creative outlet for a simpler style of food focused on depth of flavour presented in a comfortable casual atmosphere” says Rogalski. “[It is] an everyday place for every day.”

Challenge is what drives innovation and necessity is the mother of creation or so the sayings go. These adages hold true especially for the restaurant industry. The necessity of continually captivating our senses of sight smell and taste while simultaneously making us feel “at home” is a delicate balance that few places are able to consistently achieve.

The menus of these new bistros include many familiar dishes: rôti provençal risotto cassoulet bourguignon. Although each venue and chef has created unique variations of these dishes the essence of the flavours remains the same. These dishes have evolved from the most humble of origins — farmers and fishermen who had sold off all the great cuts of meat or all the prized fish from their catch created something amazing from the leftovers in order to feed their families. These simple techniques that respect natural ingredients and champion straightforward flavours form the foundation of both haute and common cuisine. This ideology is still espoused by the best chefs and the best restaurants no matter which level of clientele they serve.

Often we are told to “remember our roots.” It is easy to become enamoured with exotic ingredients fancy surroundings and impressive presentations. There is nothing wrong with that — variety keeps life exciting. However we should bear in mind that even the most exotic items had a start in the most humble of circumstances and the most humble of ingredients can easily inspire the most wonderful dishes.

In the end Rogalski puts it simply “I will say for myself that I love food no matter what — and food comes at different price points.” We should all remember that great food like great people is not just limited to a certain segment time or place. Often the simplest forms are the closest to heart and comfort.