Growing up, I enjoyed the culinary talents of my two fabulous parents. We ate out occasionally, but for the most part we consumed dinner together, at the kitchen table, most nights of the week, because both of them are fabulous cooks. The term “foodie” hadn’t entered my lexicon yet, but I did know that I was well fed with great, fresh meals.
When I studied in France after my sophomore year of college, I had my first AH HA food moment. Traveling on a student’s budget, my traveling companion and I trundled into a local store in Paris and bought a baguette, some brie, a sausage, and some vin de table. To a more sophisticated eater, this may seem like good eating 101, but lil ol’ me was blown away – so simple! So delicious! So… FRENCH! Since then, I’ve lived in two great food cities, and I have to admit I’ve been spoiled. In NYC, my neighborhood pizza joint was Mario Batali’s Otto, and I became a wee bit of a bagel obsessive. Here in San Francisco, my bucket list pretty much consists of restaurants I dream of (haven’t been, but here’s to hoping!), and local joints I’m fixated on becoming foursquare mayor of. To be honest, I never considered the fact that my hometown had a great impact on my desire to find the most authentic and delicious dish.
Petite Restaurant in Calgary exemplifies all of the best qualities of restaurants in NYC and SF that have 6 month long waiting lists and fixate the flying fingers of the blogging elite. Chef Jared Alvey studied at the Culinary Institute of America, specializing in French technique. He and his team take advantage of local produce and meat, and change their menu frequently. Petite’s space is cozy and comfy, with an open kitchen so that you can steal glances at the magic transpiring on the stove. Wine lovers will find everything they need, and Petite’s staff is well versed in all things pairing.
I had the duck (pictured in all of its instagramed goodness above), sitting on a majestic pillow of perfect risotto. I loved it. Before that, I had a scallop appetizer with a truffled pasta – this appetizer alone would have made for one of the best meals I’d had in ages, but to be followed by something as earthy yet refined as the duck/risotto combo, accompanied by two stellar glasses of wine, put this meal amongst some of the best I’ve ever had. My family sat perched at the bar spots overlooking the kitchen (best seats in the house, natch) and hardly talked – when we weren’t marveling at the calm precision of the busy chefs, we were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over everything we put in our mouths.
In short, I had a world-class meal, and the best part about it was that I was in my hometown. We sat in the building that used to house my very first job (14 year old barista in a local coffee shop). I ate a delectable meal conceived and prepared by my cousin’s cousin who got his restaurant legs in joints I used to frequent with my fake ID in in high school, and it rivaled dinners I’ve had in cities far more likely to be seen in Bon Appetit. I left full and happy, only to have to brush snow off the car as a storm moved in.
As you all know, I love San Francisco, but meals like this remind me that I come from a great place, and great things happen there. Jared and his team have an amazing thing going, and I’m excited to see how the restaurant continues to evolve (I’ve been there three times, which works out to every time I’ve been back to Calgary since the place opened).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to figure out the best way to replicate a killer sticky toffee bread pudding…