When Waalflower Kitchen and Cocktails opens its doors to the public on March 5, chances are good it will be the Cocktail part of their name that will lure you in. Their approach to modern mixology brings you combinations you may have never sipped before, like this Gardener’s Tonic cocktail with butterfly pea flower. But, when asked to make a not-so-hipster Pink Lady (not pictured because I immediately guzzled it with gusto), they are ready for any #cocktailchallenge. Don’t try this at home, kids. Simply because it won’t taste as good.Look up from your glass, and you may notice there’s something… familiar about this place. The location at the bottom of Edmonton Trail, in the old Waal building (kudos on the cheeky name, Waalflower), used to be the home of Whitehall, and home to many good times. Now, with new decor and more generous approach to the space around the bar, it appears that the good times are about to return.Just when you wondered if there were any reporters left in the world of media conglomeration (perhaps you don’t, but it’s a topic I think about all too often), Calgary’s foodie media showed up in full force, ready to see if Waalflower would bring it, beyond the purple drinks. Hi Shelley!It was time for me to take my seat. And take a picture to prove my selfie-averse self was actually there.We were started off with a scrumptious creamy schmear.Lamb meatballs, meet my tummy.Tuna and smoked trout? Check.Eggs for dinner? Yes. Especially when paired with Beef Merguez Sausage en Cocotte with dates and cilantro.The barramundi with orange, arugula and caponata sauce was delicious but difficult. If you order it, be prepared to de-bone your bites. Preferably before they reach your mouth. I haven’t cultivated this mediterranean talent, and my fabulousness as a fine diner suffered during this course.Meanwhile, the roasted chicken with spinach, lemon potatoes and garlic tzatziki offers a satisfying stick-to-your bones large entree with less complications. After dinner, it only made sense to head back to the bar, where the VIP preview had reached another level. As appropriate for any party influenced by copious amounts of cocktails. CBC’s David Gray of the Eyeopener (see if you can spot him in the blissed-out blur of this action shot) had an early morning wakeup call, though, so he resisted the repeat siren call of Bar Manager JD Darnes (hunched over his next concoction on the right).Mike O’Connor, of Calgary Stampede Rodeo Committee fame, and Thomas Keeper of Tink Real Estate (and reality tv star, but that’s another story) epitomize the dichotomy of Calgary’s fashion story: you can’t go wrong with sleek city style or cowboy chic. Both are always apropos. Of course, you can never control it. Any good party anywhere always ends up in the kitchen. Welcome to the neighborhood, Waalflower! And thanks for the wonderful evening.
When you live in Calgary, chances are you know a rancher. If you’re lucky, you’ll be invited out for a ride. I’m fortunate enough to be friends with Rachel Herbert, who raises grass fed cattle just south of Nanton, AB, for her poetically named premium beef business, Trail’s End Beef. So when she invited me out to ride savvy Suzy, we had some farm chores to do. And since it was hunting season, Rachel sported a safety-chic orange vest…… and so did I. I also wore a pair of chaps I hadn’t used in a decade, but my style was more Michelin Man than Wild West, thanks to the need to stay warm.On this particular day, we had a mission. These calves were weaned the week before, so now it was time to move them to the farm for the winter, where Rachel and Ty can keep an eye on them.Rachel’s hubby and quintessential cowboy Tyler mapped out our moves…… while Suzy and Jet always seemed to know exactly where to be to get the job done.Being in the saddle for hours was easy in this custom-made cutting saddle by Vic Bennett.First we moved the calves out of their pen, over the hills. My job was to stay in the back and encourage stragglers to get moo-ving. Then it was time to take this show on the road! Rachel spent years on the hunter-jumper circuit, but being a cowgirl is in her DNA — she’s a fourth-generation Alberta rancher. Those cows better get moving before Jet decides to give their butts a love bite.The grass on the side of the road was looking mighty delicious to the calves, so I had my herding work cut out for me… but I managed to snap one more photo while we were on the move. Way up ahead, on Turbo the roan, Tyler was ready to stop any cars that came along. Mission accomplished! But Suzy lingered a little longer, just to let those cows know who is boss.Rachel works the chute, and without that safety vest we finally get an opportunity to see her flawless cowgirl style, complete with vintage scarf. And those fringed chinks! Those are shorter chaps, for y’all who are not up on cowboy lingo. I didn’t know either.It was a novelty to be on a horse with such a lustrous mane, compared to the ponies I usually ride. Besides the cattle we also caught sight of a moose, loping across the ridge. Not pictured here, but emblazoned in my memory forever.Ride ‘em cowgirls. Thanks so much for an amazing day, Rachel and Suzy!
Who’s the Calgary chef (and the only chef from Canada) in Netflix’s new show? Plus a tour of a brand new Bel-Aire mansion, a local film hoping for an Oscar nod, Grant Fuhr on the red carpet, one of Teatro’s hot spots is now open for lunch, and the cutest video you’ll ever see of the pandas at the Calgary zoo. All in this edition of BBTV Update!
Now Chef Darren MacLean, seen above at his scrumptuous Shokunin restaurant in Mission, is one of the contenders on The Final Table — Netflix’s first foray into the dazzling world of chef-driven cooking competitions, complete with intimidating judges. The Final Table premieres on November 20.
The premise? 24 chefs vie to impress the world’s toughest palates as they whip up iconic dishes from nine nations in this star-packed competition. And yes, in classic Netflix style, you’ll be able to binge-watch it — all 10 episodes will be posted at the same time. Just in time for American Thanksgiving, for our friends to the south who will be in the ultimate food mood.
Get a seat at Shokunin for while you still can. It may become crowded with binge-watchers looking to binge-eat Chef Darren’s yummy yakitori. As he says in the trailer, being the final chef at the table “would absolutely change everything.” Check it out to cheer Chef Darren on!
Stepping inside Royale for lunch is like stepping into an oasis, not just because the noise from the seemingly permanent 17th Avenue construction is mercifully muted once the door shuts behind you. It’s the decor, the trees and all that natural light from above. Royale has been serving dinner since late 2017. Why did they wait so long to launch lunch?
Maybe it was because they wanted to make sure it was done right. Which, in my books, means a wine list that includes Whispering Angel rosé. Check. May I recommend the Artisan Green Salad to go with? The chevre makes these greens feel decadent, not diet.I followed with the Grilled Chinook Salmon, but it was a tough choice. The menu offered many items that justified a second glass of Whispering Angel.Take a moment to digest the view of the zinc-topped bar in Paris brasserie style. When Corbeaux Bakehouse, the restaurant formerly in this space, suddenly shut down after just one year sprucing up 17th, Teatro Group swooped in to expand its collection of Calgary comestible offerings to seven. In case you missed the Corbeaux moment, and still need your bearings, the restaurant is in the old Melrose location. Which I don’t miss. The ol’ renowned Melrose patio is now even better, with tiered levels to people-watch with discretion. If the construction stops in time for next summer, it will be an excellent place to rosé all day.
Meanwhile, back to our luscious lunch. Save room for foodie feed-worthy tiramisu. If you’re a dedicated copy consumer and you’ve read this far, I must stress: you can’t hear the construction when you’re inside. Go to Royale now, before the rest of the culinary crowds are in on the secret.
All photos except #2 courtesy of the amazing Maggie Keeper.