Thursday, August 26, 2010

GCC and the TRUTH about dining out

Okay I promise I'm not trying to turn this into a food blog... but food is one of my favourite things.  Not just to eat, but especially to learn about and create myself.  So it's inevitable that a lot of posts on here are going to revolve around food.  As will today's, but it will also revolve around my AMAZING DRAWING SKILLS as well, so if you like food and love my drawings, this should make your day.

Last night Brahm and I went to GCC at the Delta Bessborough in Saskatoon.  We were at the hotel for a wedding a few months ago and the reception room was adjacent to the restaurant, so it caught my eye on our way out.  The amazing menu was posted near the entrance and I made a mental note to go there ASAP.

I really regret not taking pictures of our meals - the presentation was always beautiful and I would love to be able to relive the memory of that meal through photos.  However I did not, and it sort of sucks to just have to describe a meal without any pictures, so for your viewing pleasure I have recreated the dishes we were served in MS Paint.  You're welcome, you're welcome.

GCC has a couple of awesome meal options - build a 3 course meal for $39 or a 4 course meal (soup + appetizer + entree + dessert) for $46.  We both opted for the 3 course meal since the whole deal also included a lot of bread, a palate cleanser, and an amuse bouche.

That's right, an amuse bouche.  Basically an amuse bouche is a pre-appetizer appetizer.  And it is a French word, which means it is SUPER CLASSY.  Guys, I know you are always wondering how classy I am, and your answer is:  I sometimes go to restaurants where they serve you amuse bouches and palate cleansers.

This amuse bouche was pretty amazing - a thin slice of beef tenderloin wrapped around brie cheese and onion, with a demi-glace (basically, gravy).  My bouche was def amused.

Next (or maybe before?  I can't remember it was so much food) we got a couple of artisan breads - a crusty white bread and a super delicious olive bread with regular, paprika, and basil butters:

So basically by now I'd eaten a large snack, and this was just the free stuff!  Good thing it was going to be about a half hour walk home.

The appetizers arrived soon after.  I ordered the goat cheese souffle (more classy French) with grape jelly and Brahm ordered the stuffed tomato - tomatoes with feta, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and I'm pretty sure there was a sour cherry compote on that plate too.  The souffle also came with a couple of wedges of toasted olive bread (olive bread is freaking amazing BTW).

Next came another classy thing - the palate cleanser!  It was basically shaved frozen juice - sort of like a sorbet.  Blackberry and passionfruit, with a blackberry topper.
Now that our palates were thoroughly cleansed and we were starting to get full, the main course arrived.  The item on the menu that initially caught my eye and actually made me want to come to GCC in the first place was the wild boar tenderloin - I absolutely love pork tenderloin so I was very curious to try it in its game form.  It was served with a butternut squash puree, sour cherry compote (which went with it perfectly), and some seasonal vegetables (zucchini, carrots, and those little yellow squash things that look like halfs of lemons but taste like zucchini only better).
This picture is sort of sad.  It definitely doesn't do any sort of justice whatsoever to the amazingness of that meal.  What does wild boar taste like?  To me it was sort of like a mix between pork and beef... I can't describe it.  It was DELICIOUS is all I can really say.  Insanely lean, flavourful, and tender.  It might be my new favourite meat.

Brahm ordered a beef tenderloin which came with Yukon Gold potatoes and the same roster of vegetables.  It was also super delicious but here is the best way I can describe the wild boar - I was eating my meal and then he offered me a bite of his steak.  Compared to the boar, the beef seemed bland and tough - which it WASN'T, by any means.  Oh wild boar, I already miss you so much.
At this point, we were both ridiculously full, so we ordered some tea and sat for about 20 minutes before the dessert course.  Which once again was incredible.
Brahm ordered a Grand Marnier creme brulee (French again we are the classiest) and I ordered the blueberry cheesecake (both came with whipped cream and those orange berries with dry leaves - I always call them gooseberries but I think they aren't actually).  I didn't try the creme brulee because I was so full I could only focus on my own dessert, but I heard it was awesome.  And my cheesecake was the best kind of cheesecake - made so light and fluffy that even if you're full, it's too good to not eat and doesn't seem so heavy that you can't keep shoveling it in.  Proper cheesecake, if you will.  Cheesecake you don't experience every day.

The weird thing about this supper was that during the course of the two hours we were there, between 6 and 8 pm, there were only 5 people dining there, including us.  This is something I don't really understand, although it's definitely not an advertised place to my knowledge.  Maybe it's usually full of hotel guests but Wednesday nights are slow?  What I can tell you is that the service was excellent (the chef even came out to ask us how the food was at the end of the evening) and you already know how I feel about the food.

If you're thinking, well maybe it is just too pricey of a place for the average joe to eat, I am here to change that perception.  Here is the view that Brahm and I have adopted regarding dining out, and if you follow it as well I guarantee you'll become a much happier restaurant-goer.

Fact:  in Saskatoon anyway, the "pricier" places really aren't any more expensive than the places that are perceived to be less pricey.  We realized this one evening when we decided to go out for supper at Bliss on Broadway, looked at the menu, saw (on average) $25 entrees, drove to Chili's instead, and still ended up dropping $60 on two incredibly salty entrees and one beer (including tip).  Then a few weeks later we went to Bliss, had AMAZING food, and vowed never to go to another chain again.

Chain restaurants like Moxie's, Chili's, Montana's, Boston Pizza, etc. are places that are somehow perceived to be relatively wallet-friendly, and they can be if you opt to just get a burger or a pasta dish.  (In my opinion though, if you want burgers, you can't beat Fuddruckers.  If you want pasta, go to Chianti's and get pasta and sauce made from scratch rather than out of a plastic bag.  Both of those places will be tastier and easier on the wallet than any of the chains listed above.)  Chances are, once you get to one of those places you'll end up deciding to order a steak, ribs, or fish/chicken breasts (to be healthy haha), and those entrees, even at chains, are going to run you between $22-$30.  Appetizers are going to be at least $8-$12, and dessert is going to be $6-$10.  Add a couple of drinks for $6-$10 each, and supper for two gets really close to $100 really fast.

The truth?  Those are the EXACT same price ranges you'll find at places like GCC and Bliss, but the food won't be as good because it's most likely going to consist of pre-packaged sauces and seasonings, thawed meats, and a deep fried side.  Why would you want to pay that much for something that so little care has gone into creating, when there is a high chance you can pay even LESS for food that has been prepared from scratch, supports local producers, and has less preservatives?  Or even if the local places charge a little more... wouldn't you rather pay an extra 5-10 bucks a person for food you're actually going to savour, enjoy, and tell all your friends about?  The only thing I told people about that $60 meal from Chili's was that it was "okay but really salty and not worth $60."  But here I am writing a lengthy blog post about last night's supper at GCC, which, I might add, came to a grand total of $114.10 including tip for two glasses of wine, two cups of tea, bread, amuse bouches, palate cleansers, AND two 3-course meals of beef tenderloin and wild boar.

Will I be doing this every week?  Of course not.  We probably don't eat out more than once a month, so actually we've spent LESS money on dining out together since adopting this philosophy.  Before, we'd go to chain places 3-4 times a month, now, we cook at our houses and "save up" for special meals out.  My eyes have been opened to so many new things since changing my view of dining out to "experiencing" rather than just "eating."  Try this.  I guarantee you'll have no regrets and you'll never want to go to Chili's again.

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