Its not often I get super excited about trying a place AND not only have it meet but exceed my expectations (and test the limits of my tummy space). Model Milk fell into that rare category. I've been meaning to try it out since it opened, and finally, was able to try it out on a recent trip to Calgary, and am definitely marking it down for return visits! Every Sunday, there's family style dinners where if you grab a group of friends and/or family, you can get a huge tableful of grub served family style. Getting ahead of myself here, so lets get on to the fooooood!
The entrance is tucked away, but easily found since there is a gigantic white head of a cow donning its entrance:
There was a nice selection of wines, cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks available. Some at our table enjoyed a bottle of vino, while I saved valuable yummy real estate for the fooood! We admired and scrambled about the neat and unique seating at Model Milk.. there's tables for "people watching" up on the top floor that surrounds the main level dinning room...
The people watching view from the top floor
and you can sit at tables close to an open kitchen off to the side (middle floor) too. Salvaged wooden beams, brick walls and large colourful lights give this open concept restaurant a cheerful, loud, bright atmosphere and tips its hat to the barnyard... where plenty of local producers produce and meats gets transformed into phenomenal dishes in the kitchen.
Fellow foodie friends have told me the crab salad is a must try, and who am I to argue? We ordered a couple to share: Dungness crab salad with a faint hit of citrusy notes from the tamarind gazpacho, and crunch from the pork cracklin' (think crispy pork skin bits), and roasted peanuts. I didn't get too much of the pork cracklin' (sad cuz I loooove pork crackling!) but the cute presentation stole the show:
How could you NOT love the little mini toasts stuffed with a delicious crab salad? A better question was how long it lasted on our table lolol!
Second appetizer up was the Buffalo wing sweetbreads. I've always enjoyed lamb, beef and the occasional lamb sweetbreads in the past - Chef Sean O'Connor at Red Ox Inn makes a killer tasty one (read about it here). So I was intrigued about buffalo sweetbreads. They would obviously be bigger, but would they still have the tender melt in your mouth buttery texture of sweetbreads from smaller mammals?
Well, one way to find out! These Buffalo sweetbreads were laced with a tempered buttery hot sauce, a roasted buttermilk emulsion (that helped tame the hot sauce kick), and served with a refreshing celery salad. While tasty, we weren't certain if the almost rubbery dense texture was due to overcooking - I had a piece that was still a bit bloody - and it was far more tender, but I still preferentially, I'll stick to sweetmeats from smaller mammals next time.
And last but not least, our fav out of the appetizers (at least for that night!).. the Foie gras parfait served with blackberry coulis, crispy aromatic crostinis and a tasty salad that went well with the foie gras. Not the parfait types served in a glass though! This delectable number turned out to be a slab of creamy foie gras deliciousness gently encased in a balanced blackberry coulis. Scoop some up onto the crostini and pile on the little fruit salad and... NOM!!
To be honest, I really only focused on the crostinis piled up with the amazing foie gras - the blackberry coilis added just the right amount of acidity and sweetness to the buttery creamy rich foie gras that I was tempted to keep this appetizer just to myself lol! Must try!
Well, you can't have duck liver without trying the duck too! My boyfriend's cousins are no strangers to Model Milk, and though the duck entree has had a few revamped renditions over time, tonight's Twice cooked duck was a winner.
Braised in XO Broth and roasted? the duck skin was nice a crispy, with the XO based broth playing up the savory unami notes of the moist tender duck leg, on top of a bed of calamari, shoot salad, and egg which added in nice tasty textural elements.
We'd be remiss if we didn't try Model Milk's infamous The Burger topped with flavorful sauteed Maitake mushrooms, a fabulous slab of ham hock, melty cheese curds, pickles and all the groceries all packed between freshly baked housemade bun.
My boyfriend's brother set a new world record inhaling the tasty burger in record time... it would be hard to not stop eating after one bite of this baby! Fries were good too - simular to McDonald's but waaay less salty.
Next was my favorite of the night (it tied with the foie gras parfait).. Chef Justin Leboe and his team transform a Broek Acre's tenderloin into perfect bites of beauty and flavor explosion on your palate.
The Broek Acres Pig with carrot jus, black kale, and crispy seasoned garlic crumbs was seriously one the best pork dishes I've ever had. The pork was cooked to a juicy medium rare, and melted in your mouth with the kale, jus and crispy bits elevating this wonderful dish to a wow wow wow! Nom nom nom!! This is a must try!!
For those in our group that wanted seafood, we had two fish entrees... the first being the Wild Pacific Cod
served on a bed of creamy herb grits sitting in a pool of clam vinaigrette and topped with a refreshing and sweet pepper piperade.
The fish was cooked to a moist perfection and the dish was executed quite nicely, though we would have preferred some more textural elements in the future.
The second fish entree was the Lois Lake Steelhead served on a bed of sorrel (think fruity herb that looks like spinach), chunks of grapefruit, and tender sweet white asparagus and a creamy sauce that tied everything together.
The fish again was executed well with the skin nicely crispy and flesh delicately moist. It would be interesting to see if they'll cook this on a charcoal grill in the future to punch up the flavors.
My boyfriend and I shared with the entire table our "large" entree... the MM Heritage Farm Fried Chicken. This Southern fried chicken isn't just pieces of chicken.. you get an entire whole fried chicken! You can get this as part of the Sunday family dinners, but since it wasn't a Sunday and they are known for their chicken and waffles, we had to give it a try.
The chicken is coated in a seasoned batter that unfortunately falls off and turns mushy fast if you don't dig in quick. The chicken itself is fried nicely - moist and juicy on the inside and crisp mildly spicy batter on the outside.
The waffles resemble bannock donuts (no complaints there! - they're the less crunchy looking pieces in the pic) are liberally smothered in a basic but savory chicken gravy, which contrasts, mixes and muddles with a good dose of maple syrup, and pepper vinegar. Thinly sliced radishes added in a little bit of colour, but was mainly ignored.. we're here for the chicken and waffles!!
And since its a family style dish, the Model Milk family wants you not to be constipated after eating a huge entire whole fried chicken, so Model Milk thoughtfully serves the chicken and waffles with Greens - a nice big plate of salad lightly dressed with a tangy vinaigrette to help cut the fried grease.
After all this yummy food, we all miraculously had a bit of tummy space for dessert, so we ended up sharing two... but there were a lot more.. just not enough tummy space to try it this time around!
First up the Breakfast icecream sammy - this one was my fav dessert... and not just because it had blueberries in it!
The breakfast sammy is an icecream sandwich made with a soft tender peanut butter cookie, garnished with blueberries, blueberry jam sauce, creme fraiche and finely chopped bits of fresh mint that added in a refreshing note to the dessert. Mmmm!
And last but not least... the Fat Kid Cake. Yup, this cake will certainly make me a fat kid if I didn't share it! Layers of moist dark chocolate cake, fluffy light peanut butter cheesecake, raspberry (or maybe cherry? I forgot to take pic of menu where dessert menu items were legible :d) buttercream, and little bits of crispy corn flake brittle and pretzels. Yup.. you heard me.. pretzels!
And did I mention the malt gelato they call milk gelato? Loooooove malt. Sweet, salty, creamy.. mmmmmm!
If Chef Justin Leboe and his team keep on creating such fabulous dishes using ingredients from equally fabulous local producers and farmers.. I'm going to be as big as a herd of cattle... but a happy one! I'll be marking out some prime tummy real estate just for Model Milk the next time I'm in Calgary!