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It was Mark’s birthday last week and as customary, every birthday means an opportunity to celebrate with a nice meal.  Unfortunately for him, he had to attend class on the evening of his actual birthday (that’s what he gets for enrolling in a Master’s program), so the official husband-and-wife birthday dinner was moved to the subsequent evening.

The weather ended up cooperating with Spring finally rearing its shy head – although in Calgary there is no such thing as Spring, as far as I’m concerned – so we walked the few blocks from our apartment to a contemporary French eatery called Avec Bistro.

interior

The evening was still young, so only a couple of tables were occupied in the well-appointed space that feels intimate and casual.  A number of friendly faces greeted us at the entrance and we were seated along the window with the sun streaming in; it was lovely to have so much natural light in the space.  There’s nothing wrong with darker, ambiance lighting, but once in a while it’s nice to step into a restaurant that lets the sun do its thing, especially after enduring a long and dreary winter.  Plus, natural light is perfect for capturing the food in its most beautiful state.

redrage

Mark started off his meal with a can of Tool Shed Red Rage beer, which is locally produced here in Calgary.  Mark loved how it tasted, and I loved its description: This ale is inspired by the undocumented freakish strength possessed by ginger (or at least by Graham). For those who are unaware of this phenomenon, red rage is, unofficially, the ONE thing that Chuck Norris fears! Extreme outbursts of red rage can result in temporary memory loss which we like to refer to as “Ginger induced Comas”.  Classic!

shortrib

We skipped the appetizers and went straight for a couple of mains.  Mark chose the Braised Short Rib with toasted barley, red wine jus, and crispy garlic.  The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender and seasoned just perfectly; it literally fell apart with only the slightest pressure from the fork.  Accompanied by crispy garlic chips, which are always welcome, the vegetables were still a bit crisp, while the barley and jus brought it all together.  Definitely a winning combination.

gnocchi

I chose the Gnocchi with a tomato sauce, roasted fennel & peppers, and garlic confit, topped with a nice helping of fresh baby arugula.  This was the first gnocchi that I’ve had pan-fried and now I don’t think I can ever eat non-pan-fried gnocchi.  Each nugget was nicely browned on the outside while still maintaining a soft and tender texture.  The roasted fennel and pepper added a nice depth to the dish, while the tomato sauce was bright and tangy.  The bitterness of the arugula cut through the richness nicely, and the garlic confit was a nice surprise – similar to roasted garlic in its sweetness and mellow undertones.  This dish was spectacular.

icecreamsam

One cannot end the meal without dessert.  We went with that night’s special, an upgrade to the classic ice cream sandwich.  This one came with chocolate chip, peanut butter, and rice krispie cookies (rice krispies in a cookie, whaaaaaat?), with our choice of either vanilla bean or salted caramel ice cream, on top of a bed of salted caramel sauce.  I didn’t want it to be salted caramel overload, so opted for the vanilla bean ice cream.  The cookie was so intriguing with its combo of chocolate chip, peanut butter, and the nice chewy texture that came with the addition of rice krispies.  I think I’m gonna try to replicate this somehow.  The vanilla bean ice cream was all sorts of amazing and I could drink that salted caramel sauce for breakfast.

We had excellent service throughout the evening from our knowledgeable and professional server.  The prices skew on the higher end, but I think the quality and execution of the dishes makes it worthwhile.  The portions are decent as well, verging more on the “normal” side (normal to me being it’s not epically super-sized that it can feed a family of 4), so we both felt satisfied and not completely overstuffed.  Overall a wonderful meal and I look forward to going back for more.

Avec Bistro
#105 550 11 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
Phone: (587) 352-0964
http://www.avecbistro.com/

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