Earls (Bankers Hall) – Calgary, AB
Earls Bankers Hall
A1, Level 1-315 8 Ave SW
(403) 265 3275
In a regrettably meek attempt to try and stem the tide against the utter disappearance of our Alberta correspondence amid the Foodosopher’s current international travel-induced hiatus, the following is a report from one of his many home bases, Calgary.
Bankers Hall. The name alone should tell you something about how stuffy, boring and just downright plain vanilla the food offerings are here. Set in the heart of downtown, the pair of office towers makes its mark for its distinct architectural design, and is one of the most notable skyscrapers that you can see as you drive in from the airport, so you’d think there would be some promising offerings for a light meal. Aside from perhaps the quality offerings of the Sunterra Marche – who I know better from my past interactions with the business savy Price Brothers based in nearby Acme, who know what they are doing when it comes to fresh, high quality ingredients – you are left with some restaurant choices that submit to providing Asian fusion, basic Chinese, some sad looking sushi, a place that is trying to pass itself as being Japanese, and then the omnipresent chains including Burger King, Jugo Juice, Starbucks, and Subway. Safe and standard fare, probably very well accepted by all the suits up in the high towers above.
I had heard an acquaintance who lives in Calgary hyping up a meal they had at Earls just a few days prior. Yes, that Earls. I can still remember my first experience with it in the mid-Eighties, in all places Red Deer. Then thinking in my naive high school years that it was an incredible joint, a place to be seen, with trumped up names given to some select branches of the chain like the Tin Palace, which catered to the supposed young and hip crowd. Today, I’d guess it pretty much remains just that, an imaginary place where all the servers and hostesses looked like they’ve been picked out of model catalog and the masses of families, friends and couples who populate them to take in their casual cuisine and think its all fine and dandy.
The item this person raved about was the Grilled Chicken and Baked Brie on Ciabatta ($13), made up of grilled breast meat, with melted brie, roasted apples and spinach with a sweet fig jam and garlic mayonnaise on toasted ciabatta bread. I think Foodosopher and I have exchanged thoughts on many of our mutual connections and their views on food and dining as well as personal tastes and how they gel, or not gel, with ours. Always an interesting conversation, and thus I made this attempt to verify said person’s observations on this particular sandwich.
Presentation-wise, as it arrived at our table, I wasn’t immediately discouraged, as the side profile of the layers inside looked promising. The sweet roasted scent of the fruit came through and the brie had begun dripping along the side of the chicken meat as if to say, “anymore heat and I’m done”. The ciabatta though a touch tough on the outside for my personal liking, did had a good spongy feel inside as I took my first bite. I must admit I am usually not a fan of brie, its the moldy white crust on top that gives it that unique contrast in texture and feels like a wrapper that gets to me. But the savory softness of the cheese itself works well with the tender breast of chicken, and doesn’t fight at all with the sweet sugary compounds of the caramelized apples inside. To say that I was quite surprised that I didn’t want to ask for another dish instead, was indeed a pleasant surprise.
My dining companion however had a disastrous experience with the Earls Bigger Better 1/2 Pound Burger ($11.50), with added sauteed mushrooms (extra $2.25). Headlining the entire sandwich and burger section of the menu, you’d think they’d be very experienced with plating this. But take a look at the overcooked and soaked in oil fries that came with the package. The meat patty itself had shrunk down to a blackened hockey puck appearance and the lettuce and tomato had not gotten a thorough shaking off before being placed on top, as the bun had already begun to get really soggy inside. I just shook my head at the sight and remarked how I really dislike it when a place boasts about a particular item and then makes a mess of the whole thing.
So there you have it, a pair of sandwiched meals that really left contrasting impressions. Truthfully when we ordered, we were expecting the opposite result for what each of us eventually had. I’m fortunate to have taken the gamble and submitted to confirming my friend’s review of the chicken/brie sandwich. My table mate however, vows never to go back to an Earls again. This was even after I reminded him of the cute waitress he kept chatting up. Ah, a clear sign that stomachs rule over hearts.