Mother’s Market has closed since the writing of this post.
Upstairs and tucked away in the southwest corner of Mother’s Market on 109 St and 102 Avenue, is home to a very talented chef. The Salt Room is Chef Antony Krause’s newest endeavour, serving lunch to the market crowd from Friday to Sunday, and hosting the occasional underground dinner by night. The five courses (which actually turned into seven) paired with house-made non-alcoholic drinks was by far one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. No lie.
Previously from The River House and Privada Wine & Tapas in St. Albert, I had missed Tony’s cooking just a day too late. The one time that I was able to visit Privada, he had just left and a new chef was starting. What was most memorable about my meal was the in-house charcuterie that Tony had left behind, coincidentally #6 of The Tomato’s Top 100 Best Things 2014. It was amazing! His passion for curing meats and charcuterie, nose to tail dining, and all things fresh and foraged, led him to form The Salt Room, a space and concept he hopes to one day turn into a full scale restaurant.
So what about the dinner? Let’s get to it! I came with Andrea, Diane, and Teresa (food friends are the best kind of friends), making it a whole lot easier to whip out cameras and phones. Tony’s focus was on local, organic ingredients. Whatever he could personally forage, he did; and the rest were assembled and gathered from the neighbouring Mother’s Market vendors. Nine of us were seated at a communal table, a more intimate setting than I had expected but very much welcomed!
We were started off with an amuse-bouche: a potato chip with smashed Russet potato, dehydrated olive “dirt”, a yeast purée, thinly sliced duck proscuitto, and pea tendril. The chip was crisp, beautifully seasoned alongside the duck prosciutto and delicious! I had trouble finding the dehydrated olive dirt in the mix of things, but we were off to a great start. Not only did the bite impress the table, the plates were gorgeous! Custom ordered and made by local artist Brenda Danbrook just a few months ago, they make me want to just slip it into my purse. Seriously. Or I could also visit her at the St. Albert Farmer’s Market when it reopens in June!
If the goal was to make diners full by course number two, then Tony was pretty close at fulfilling it. A plate of beautifully baked breads was next to come out: a rosemary focaccia, a cute little potato bun, and a pretzel bun. Holy Jesus, I could eat that rosemary focaccia bread all day. Add in the quenelle of brown butter with bacon Maldon sea salt and I could eat it all night and in my sleep too. When I visited Tony at the market last weekend, I noticed little mason jars of brown butter for sale on the counter. I actually thought to myself, oh my God, that’s a lot of butter. And now I know why — it will last you only a day. Sooooooo good. I’ve got it in my calendar to head back down there this weekend to get me a jar.
Sourced from Sgambaro’s Seafoods, a charcoal-grilled langoustine was up next with beets done two ways, pickled purée and a golden beet sponge, and garnished with radish and daikon microgreens from Harvest Microgreens. A play on the classic shrimp cocktail, the acidity and sweetness from the duo beets made the dish well-balanced, the langoustine moist and well cooked. Paired with a housemade ginger ale (love fresh ginger!), it was a nice light dish compared to our previous.
The winning dish of the night was the beef heart. Yeah, the least expected ingredient somehow beat out that brown butter and fresh bread and if he hadn’t told us it was beef heart, I wouldn’t have known. Served with red leaf lettuce hearts and charred onions, Tony’s play on a Lyonnaise salad, was delicious! A mustard jus was just enough to coat the slices of beef heart and a vibrant (and deceivingly taro-like), purple carrot purée made us all wipe our plates clean! Served with a housemade iced tea with simple syrup, you’d honestly think that Spring was already here.
The meal turned more rustic in nature towards the end, showcasing Tony’s wide range of talent and cooking styles. The description on the menu was zucca, kale, lamb, gouda. I couldn’t find kale and what’s a zucca? I always enjoy the guessing game that goes on in my head and learning new things! Fresh kale juice was pressed and mixed into the pasta dough, then formed into zucca, a pumpkin stem-shaped pasta! Coolbeans. A generous portion of braised lamb neck and slices of award-winning Sylvan Star’s Old Grizzly Gouda made the comfort dish a standout. To lighten it up, a Juniper Italian soda was served, the Juniper branches foraged by Tony and his partner Chelsea. It was the best drink of the meal and no doubt, nobody missed wine that night! (Mother’s Market is in the process of obtaining a liquor license.)
Did I say the winning dish of the night was the beef heart? Scratch that, the dessert blew me away. A glass orb was filled with blood orange bavarois, a Bavarian cream, crumbled dehydrated chocolate mousse, drizzled with a light caramel sauce and garnished with fresh cinnamon basil. A chocolate lid was placed on top, trapping in the orange blossom essence. It was the cutest dessert presentation ever! Yeah, move over mason jar desserts, you’re old news. Breaking into the chocolate lid was like opening a present, the kind of present that you’ve been waiting for in a long time. Teresa exclaimed that the only downside to the dish was not being able to lick the inside of the orb. So true. A warm unfiltered Gala apple cider rounded out our evening, giving the warm, cozy feeling as if a fireplace was right next to us.
Packaged to take home (oh, the night doesn’t end there friends!), petit fours: a popcorn caramel, smoked alder chanterelle chocolate truffle, and a sour cherry gummy. I came home to Joe (he got off work too late to attend) on the couch and had barely taken off my shoes and in midst of changing into pyjamas when I heard Joe exclaim, “These look good, can I eat them?” OMG NOOOOOOOO DON’T TOUCH THEM! I should know by now to hide food from Joe. The popcorn caramel was my favourite, absolutely delicious and gooey caramel, sprinkled with popcorn crumbs. The sour cherry gummy was tart and perfect in consistency and the oozy chocolate truffle was Joe’s favourite.
“Can I go to the next one?” asked Joe. Yeah, you and the rest of #yegfood followers on Twitter and Instagram, and all of Edmonton! The next underground dinner will be on Wednesday, April 1st. Tony’s already got a menu roughly planned out, and likely a theme of tricks and surprises as a nod to April Fool’s Day. Make sure to follow The Salt Room on Twitter and Instagram (@thesaltroom_yeg). Reservations for the next dinner can be made by shooting Tony an email (details below). I’ve already reserved my ticket, and yes, I feel a wee bit of guilt for reserving if it’s another small dinner, but my stomach will kill me if I don’t feed it more of his outstanding food. And for those who can’t make the next dinner, visit Tony upstairs at Mother’s Market for lunch! He’s only three weeks away from finishing up his charcuterie, something I’m very much looking forward to. Working with Strawman Farm, future plans include breeding and raising pigs similar to the Black Iberians, producing cured products similar to the Spanish jamón ibérico. Tony is so sweet to talk to and super ambitious, his passion very clear when you talk to him! Super exciting. Thanks to Susan from Molly’s Eats for introducing me to an unreal dinner, worth every penny, believe me!
The Salt Room (Underground Dinner)
Contact: Tony Krause, antonykrause (@) gmail (.) com
@thesaltroom_yeg The Salt Room (Mother’s Market)
10251 109 Street
Friday, Saturday, Sunday
10AM – 5PM
Disclosure: I was provided a ticket at a discounted rate for the first underground dinner. Opinions expressed are of my own and I was not expected to photograph or write about my experience.