Birthday Eats (Part One): Wildflower Grill
I can honestly say that when my birthday rolls around every year, I look forward to celebrating it with friends and family — over food, of course. This year I was privileged enough to be taken to Wildflower Grill by Joe, after mentioning how I had never tried it as we walked by on our way to the legislature parks. Because I had made plans for my annual sushi dinner with my friends on the day of my birthday (post to come), we went on Thursday for my pre-birthday treat. It just so happened, that night was the Gold Medal Plate 2012 culinary competition, with the winner being no other than Chef Nathin Bye from Wildflower Grill! What a pleasant coincidence. Although our dishes weren’t in the realm of the winning dish’s theme, “Breakfast for Dinner”, they were outstanding regardless!
With decor to reflect the fall season, the restaurant was very warm and inviting. Most tables were filled and were cared for by very attentive staff. We were seated in a cozy corner and introduced to the menu.
Organized into small bites, lighter fares, and entrees, it made selecting dishes a bit easier. Being a fan of tapas and sharing smaller dishes with more variety of plates, we opted for more of the lighter fares and shared one entree.
Now by this time you all know that sometimes when I get a little excited, I forget to take a photo completely. It’s happened again. Our dinner started off with an amuse-bouche (French for mouth amuser), a one-bite hors d’oeuvre compliments of the kitchen. This is my first amuse-bouche ever. Seeing how I started going out to fancier restaurants only recently, you can imagine my excitement. Served on a curved spoon, we each tried cured salmon with mango and pineapple salsa coulis. It was fantastic! Bold in flavor and refreshing at the same time! As soon as I ate it and looked down at the empty spoon, I realized my mistake. If anything, I would return to this restaurant just to get another amuse-bouche!
Make no mistake, I was careful not to eat anything before taking photos thereafter. House made French brioche came out as our complimentary bread for the night. Served with an organic butter with thyme and garlic, this was super yummy. Presentation-wise: A+. Loved it served in a little measuring cup! Joe loved the bread as well, describing it as “very fluffy, a little sweet” and asking if I could make this… if I had a bread maker.. and if I could put it in a small cup. No, I most certainly cannot!
As soon as Joe saw crab cakes on the menu, it was an instant selection for him. Plated on top of frisee salad with avocado, roasted pine nuts, and a citrus vinaigrette, the cakes were crispy and filled with mostly crab and not filler ingredients. Delicious!
We had chosen our other dishes before choosing the vine ripened tomato and truffled mozarella salad. Intially, we were going to order the Quebec maple glazed cornish game hen confit. With so many proteins though, I desperately thought vegetables were lacking in the dinner and tried to convince Joe that it was just a small chicken and he should try duck confit instead. He bought it and I got my salad dish! With artichoke and hearts of palm tapenade layered in between fresh tomato slices and artisan greens on one side, grilled vegetables on the other and a smoked tomato infusion throughout, I really enjoyed the dish. A fresh mozzarella ball sliced into bite-sized pieces went well with everything! Joe seemed more than fascinated at the fresh taste of a tomato and was convinced they did something to it. Reminder: Joe does not eat vegetables. Although thankful for ordering a lighter dish, the cornish hen will be on the table at my next visit, promise!
A three mushroom ravioli was served at the same time. This was one of my picks, being a fan of anything ravioli. Served with a smoked applewood cheddar fonduta and asparagus, the ravioli was stuffed with three different types of mushrooms (I forgot to ask which kinds but truffle was in the description) and piave vecchio (a nuttier version of parmesan). Each ravioli produced a strong earthy bite, very overpowering. There were only a few bites though, which was perfect! I don’t think I could have handled a whole dish of such strong flavors. The pasta was rolled out very thinly which showcased more of the mushrooms rather than a thick pasta dough. Loved this dish!
Our main course was the mesquite grilled sockeye salmon medallions with scallop and shrimp in an ice wine emulsion. On the side, a root vegetable gnocchi in a cream broth. I dug into the gnocchi before anything else, it was so cute! The texture was very fluffy and soft. I prefer a harder gnocchi but otherwise, the taste was fantastic! The salmon medallions were overshadowed by the perfectly cooked scallop and well-seasoned shrimp. We were dying for more of those instead, so sadly the medallions were not the star of the dish.
As if what we were ordered didn’t fill us up already (we lacked the foresight of complimentary bread), we still managed a dessert. Hoping it would be small, it was a surprise when our mango passion creme brulee with fresh pastry cream filled beignets came in epic dessert proportions! If one thing is certain here, Wildflower Grill does not cut out quantity for outstanding quality. You get both. The creme brulee was delicious, although nothing spectacular. I was expecting more mango flavors but it was very subtle. The beignets were fresh, crispy, and filled with ooey goodness. Those became the highlight of the dish very quickly and with three of them to share, we were both happy.
Although the occasion itself may already make me happy, I have no doubts that the food made me really happy (and full!). Winners of the night were the salad, the ravioli, the scallop and gnocchi, and the beignets. All other components were a close runner-up. Service was beyond stellar: glasses refilled continuously, fresh warm plates and cutlery after every dish, and a nicely paced meal. I will be back soon to try more dishes and get my photo of the next amuse-bouche! When I said I was going to come back, Joe immediately claimed it as our restaurant (along with anything else in the downtown area we have tried and enjoyed), and frowned upon the idea that I would bring anybody else to eat with. Sorry Joe, anybody who invites me to Wildflower will get an ecstatic yes and a brief moment of watching me do a happy jig. Thank you for an excellent birthday dinner Wildflower Grill!Wildflower Grill
10009 – 107 St
(780) 990-1938 Facebook: Wildflower Restaurant
On a unrelated-food note, this is what I got from Joe! Introducing Joe Jr., a Build-A-Bear replicate of Joe himself, complete with hoodie and Converse sneakers and nerdy glasses (Joe doesn’t even wear glasses, although he is nerdy). Probably feeling odd that the gift wasn’t food-related, he also got me the coveted Williams-Sonoma Nordic Ware Egg Waffle Pan that I blogged about on my visit to their grand opening! *happy jig* I’ll be sure to do a post when I make these bad boys!