G I LC H R I ST
As hidden gems go, The Rock has been a great little hole-in-thewall in Marlborough for the past three years. Hard to find, small space, a little down at the heels — perfect. But a few months ago, Swandri, the owner and chef of The Rock, closed his northeast restaurant to move to a highertraffic location. A couple of real estate deals fell through before he finally landed a space and now he’s open at 1446 17th Avenue S.W. (403-454-0242). That’s just west of the 17th Avenue and 14th Street S.W. intersection, next to Chianti’s.
The Rock has taken over a small coffee shop, a long, narrow room that seats about 40. It still has remnants of the coffee shop, but Swandri has installed a new kitchen and given the room a fresh coat of paint. It’s a simple space; there are no frills here.
Swandri focuses his attention on the food. It’s a wide-reaching list that starts with a creamy chicken and corn chowder ($5/$7) and a list of burgers. There’s a lamb burger with onion, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and apple wood-smoked cheddar ($13) and a beef burger ($11), as well as shrimp, pork, chicken, and veggie burgers. (They come with soup, salad or fries.)
There are also a couple of lunch pastas, and for dinner, Swandri rolls out the big dishes — calamari ($10), escargot ($12), roasted duck breast ($27), rack of lamb ($39) and a 10-ounce Sterling Silver Prime rib ($29). It’s a remarkably upscale list that’s seemingly out of place with the simplicity of the setting, but Swandri says his top sellers are the rack of lamb done in a rosemary-mustard crust, the duck, a 10-ounce breast of Muscovy duck served with sautéed spinach and mushrooms in an orange brandy sauce, and his slow-roasted ribs ($26). All of The Rock’s main courses come with two sides and make a substantial meal. And where else can you get escargots these days?
Swandri hails from Indonesia — hence the single name — and learned to cook from his father, also a chef. Landing hotel jobs in Indonesia, and later in Vancouver, he learned classic Continental cooking from French chefs. He works Asian flavours into some of his dishes, but his technique is much more French than Indonesian. That includes desserts of crème brûlée, chocolate mousse and tiramisu.
So the new Rock continues the tradition of a basic decor with rich, flavourful, well-executed food. Just the way a hole-in-thewall should be.
Note: The Rock is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, plus brunch on Saturdays.
Barbecue fans were lined up recently for the reopening of Big D’s Smokehouse in the Calgary Farmers’ Market at 510 77th Avenue S.E. Big D’s had been closed for a couple of months following the death of its owner, Derek Davis.
Showing respect for the legacy Davis built over the past three years, new owners Jean Charbonneau and Leslie Berton have kept the name, the look and the recipes intact, creating a seamless transition.
Charbonneau and Berton are no strangers to the restaurant world. They brought the first Cora’s to Calgary (4600 130th Avenue S.E.) in 2006 and helped spur the Quebec-based restaurant group’s expansion to six southern Alberta franchises.
A recent trip to Texas convinced Charbonneau and Berton to broaden their horizons into slow-cooked meats, so when Big D’s became available, they bought it. Big D’s is a welcome return to the Calgary Farmers’ Market.
In other Calgary Farmers’ Market (CFM) news, Lund’s Organic Farm has opened a booth there, selling their renowned carrots, parsnips, parsley roots, potatoes and other premium vegetables.
The return of Lund’s to the market is notable because Gert Lund was one of its original vendors, dating from before its Currie Barracks period back to the days of the Blackfoot Farmers’ Market. When the CFM closed its Currie Barracks location in 2010, Lund helped found the Kingsland Farmers’ Market. And while Kingsland is still doing well on Macleod Trail, Lund has opted to open a location at CFM, rejoining other longtime vendors such as Innisfail Growers and The Cherry Pit.
Other new vendors at CFM include Food On Your Shirt, featuring the talented designs of Pierre Lamielle, Papa Chocolat with the chocolates of Bernard Callebaut, Beeland, a new honey and honeyproduct shop, and Soffritto’s Oil and Vinegar Bar.
Note: CFM is open Monday, Dec. 23 and then closed until Jan. 9.
RESTAURANT GUIDE TO
Corkscrews — The esteemed watchmaker Patek Philippe claims that you never really own one of their watches, you simply keep it and then pass it on to the next generation. The corkscrews from the French firm Forge de Laguiole are built this way, as well; they can last a lifetime and beyond. Many of the producers in the French commune of Laguiole have moved their production to China and while their prices are now a fraction of what they used to be, so is the quality of the corkscrews. Forge de Laguiole are still hand-built in Laguiole using the highest quality materials available and if you don’t abuse them they can indeed last a lifetime. They retail from about $190 to $250 each depending on the finish and are available at a few select retailers in the city.