Finally made Calgary last night by midnight. We are looking forward to seeing what Calgary has to eat. BBQ seems perfect for an early lunch. Seafood and snow crab are also featured on the menu. Booker’s, a cavernous joint is our first stop. Sufficiently scruffy outside, slick and industrial chic inside, a bank of flatties lights up the bar, funky art and a Jim Beam guitar grace the walls. Buddy Holly, Johnny Rivers, Elvis, SRV and Clapton echo through the towering space.
We order up a couple of local beers, Grasshopper, a nice refreshing wheat beer and an app of burnt ends. The burnt ends arrive quickly. They are tasty, prized cubes of brisket but mostly fat. Rob says this is exactly how they are every time he has tried them. Two are enough for me.
Our mains, BBQ smoked chicken for me and St. Louis ribs for Rob arrive literally on top of our appetizer. Not sure if the poor spacing was due to a virtually empty restaurant at 12:30 on a Wednesday or because we ordered them after we told her what we wanted for mains.
Entrees come with BBQ standards of corn on the cob and baked beans. Whipped potatoes replace potato salad. My perfectly smoked chicken, moist with smoky pink meat, has toughened skin from the smoker. The Kansas City sauce which lends a delicious sweet heat remedies this. Rob’s ribs are excellent, tasty and well smoked. A good smoke ring balanced by a sweet maple bourbon BBQ sauce.
The beans are homemade, decent BBQ beans. They are not very sweet and don’t appear to have any bacon or brisket added. They are not to my preference and I leave them. The potatoes are bland and unseasoned. They could uses a good deal more butter. On second thought. It’s BBQ. stop being creative and serve potato salad as god intended. The corn is a nice surprise. This is usually a throw away item that does nothing more than add colour to a plate full of meat. Bookers corn is dropped into boiling water for 5 when ordered. Fresh, sweet, toothsome. Not mushy like 99% of other BBQ joints. No bread is served. BBQ demands bread.
The kitchen smelling of celery, onion and bacon frying. A childhood memory. This simple chowder was quick and cheap and a favorite. With everyone but my dad. He had a curious dislike of this inoffensive soup. I was recently reminded of it when we visited New Orleans this August. We were sitting in Acme Oyster House waiting for po’boy sandwiches after a long flight in from Ottawa. I ordered a cup of their crab bisque, a cream based soup full of fresh corn and crab meat.
The small cup of soup also prompted a conversation around what exactly is the difference between a bisque and a chowder. From what I can discover, bisque is a fancy French word for chowder in everyday use where the terms are interchangeable and floated about fast and free. There are some essential differences purists would argue. Both are milk or cream based. Chowder is a little thicker and and chunkier, bisque is a little thinner and strained to be smooth. Bisques are more layered in flavour, time consuming to make and reduced to intensify flavours. Chowder is considered more of a poor man’s stew where ingredients are merely combined. Both are usually fish based but you will find vegetable and tomato based ones.
My mom has no memory of where she got this recipe, or even if it was a recipe. I am using her base and adding crabmeat and fresh corn, as inspired by Acme’s crab bisque.
Corn & Crab Chowder
1 can potato soup (Campbell’s)
1 can creamed corn
1 can milk (use soup can to measure)
1 rib celery, diced
1/4 pound bacon, diced
small onion, diced
2 ears fresh corn, corn taken off cob
1 cup crab meat
salt and pepper to taste
Render bacon for about a minute then add celery and onion. Sweat until vegetables are tender. Turn heat down low add potato soup, can of milk and then creamed corn. Heat through for 15 minutes on low. Add fresh corn and crab. Heat through. Serve with baguette.
Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.