Thursday, February 23, 2012

love at chives

Being uber busy these days-and there's that whole boyfriend in another province thing-meant we totally missed V Day . Generally we celebrate by going for a nice meal. But not going Tuesday was probably in our favor since we missed out on the crowds. I've served at a popular restaurant on V Day before so I know how bat shit crazy it can get. Lucky for us, our own personal V Day was this past Sunday. The setting: Chives and I'll admit it was our first time. I know, I know.

We arrived to a warm inviting space and were led to a large table set for two. How nice. Our server was a lovely lady who, when I ordered a bottle of Bodegas Juan Gil Petit Verdot, engaged me in a conversation about the wine, wanting to ensure I 'd enjoy it despite having never tried it. She very clearly knew her stuff. To start, Brent chose the oysters (no surprise there) and I opted for the beef short ribs off the Dine Around menu, part of the Savour Food and Wine celebration. (OK, I may have been obsessed with reading the Dine Around menus over and over, trying to decide where to go. If only I got paid to sample them all....a girl can dream.) The cajun oysters were ah-mazing. Corn flour dusted, flash fried and paired inventively with a slaw, chipotle aioli, chorizo BBQ sauce, and sweet potato puree, these were nothing short of incredible. Sweet, salty, acidic, crunchy, tart, creamy, savoury, spicy. Did I miss anything cuz I don't think they did. I want more now, like four orders more. But equally as delish, was the balsamic glazed short rib with smoked tomato ragout, cheddar polenta, and hickory sticks. Again, these chefs know how to bring it when it comes to representing a variety of flavours and textures. Don't even get me started on how incredibly tender those ribs were. Insert drool here. And apparently I do like polenta, at least the creamy, cheesy Chives version.

For his main, Brent chose Bill Wood's local lamb dish (another no brainer especially since he never gets it at home- ew lamb). I am going to say the craziest thing now but I-gasp-thoroughly enjoyed the lamb. Crazy I know. That slow braise made for some incredibly tender lamb that somehow tasted less lamby. Make sense?! Brent kept feeding me bites of the succulent meat not because he was big on sharing but rather to turn me onto lamb. And I did not complain. His dish also included a toasted barley risotto, chestnut gravy and some sauteed brussel sprouts and parsnips with cranberry. All very delicious. And one more word on the lamb - how cool is it that this dish is named for the farmer. Pretty f'n cool I'd say. Read this article from another local food blogger Simon Thibault and it becomes that much cooler: He's "that guy'' You know the "lamb guy"...

From the three entree options off the Dine Around menu, I went for the pan roasted Steelhead trout served with roasted fingerlings, creamed savoy cabbage with double smoked bacon, pickled heirloom beets and a lemon fennel salad. I'm not one to order fish when dining out-although I have no idea why- but this dish made me rethink my ways. Sometimes I find trout or salmon a tad underdone even though I know a lot of folks like it medium. But at Chives the fish was cooked perfectly. Tender and juicy with a nice crust. The buttery creamed cabbage expertly complimented the tender fish with the bacon providing the requisite salty touch. I'll take bacon as my salt any day! (Hmmm bacon salt. I'll get on that...) Even though I always love me some beets, the pickled ones in this dish provided yet another element.  Can you say yum. I don't know if I missed it or if the other flavors were more pronounced but I can't recall the lemon fennel salad component. I may have detected a hint of citrus but I certainly didn't taste fennel. There were some coriander seeds for a nice unexpected pop of flavor. Regardless, I never for one moment thought anything was missing, lemon fennel salad or not.

Because this was our V Day and I had chosen the dessert inclusive Dine Around menu, we went for it. My dessert, "The Peanut Buster" was pure bliss, if bliss was a fluffy, chocolatey flourless cake with creamy peanut butter ice cream all drizzled in chocolate ganache and dulche de leche. Oh, there were candied peanuts too. Yes, take a moment to yourself. Brent's dessert consisted of a local apple stuffed with brioche bread pudding, served with cinnamon gelato and and butter toffee sauce. The bread pudding was especially moist and yummy and that gelato was off the hook. Brent did enjoy it but, after tasting mine, was very clearly jealous. Chocolate and peanut butter will always trump apple cinnamon. But that's just me.

With our wine pick a clear winner, we enjoyed one of the best meals we have ever had in Hali. For real. The atmosphere was casual yet still romantic, the food very clearly divine, and the service impeccable. It's quite funny actually. She asked if Brent was a chef because every time she came to the table we were obviously deep in conversation about the biz or other food related things. Love it!

The folks down there at Chives are doing it all right. If their well rounded menu of locally sourced fare isn't evidence enough, head on down there and see for yourself. If you need a date, I'm game but perhaps we'll keep that to ourselves! And FYI, that Dine Around Menu is only 35 bucks. Seems like a steal doesn't it? That's because it is.

(You may have noticed the lack of delicious foodie photos. It was a special night out so I opted to keep the cell in the pocket. I was glad I did.)

Chives Canadian Bistro on Urbanspoon