When our favorite steakhouse in Kensington Village announced a new partnership with an Alberta hormone-free beef producer, they decided a press release wouldn’t cut it. Instead, Premium, the top bull in Canada, along with his lovely four-legged escort, rolled up up in prime style. Soon that name tag on his ear will be upgraded to match his new moniker: Benchmark Modern Steak.Inside the VIP dining room at Modern Steak, third-generation cattle farmer Michael Munton explained why his business tagline is “Engineering Superior Beef.” Much of it is the marbling…Michael whipped out his smartphone to show me Premium’s fat stats. Seen in the blue, the average bull in Canada has .39% fat, while Premium’s marbling (in the white) is a whopping 1.86%, making him worth every cent of the $75,000 Modern Steak paid for him. His value as a prime papa will turn a profit pretty darn quick. Mike tells me his stud fees are $30-55 bucks a straw. And Premium is prolific. He can produce 2700 of those units in a week.But enough of the numbers… Modern Steak had a table of hungry media to feed.The first course of the four-course menu was steak tartare, made with – you guessed it – Benchmark beef. And a surprising white wine pairing: Four Star Chardonnay, a delicious vanilla-scented offering from California’s central coast. Of course, no self-respecting food blogger would take a bite before taking a pic, like Irene Seto on the right. On the left, Avenue Editor Kathe Lemon politely waits to dive in.The next course was ravioli, filled with Benchmark dry aged braised short ribs, ladled with mushroom consome, topped with adorable pickled himeji mushrooms and bubbling grand padano foam. The server tried in vain to get us to eat at peak foam, without pausing to take photos.Overheard kitchen drama just before delivery of the third course: “These plates look like sh*t!” No, Gordon Ramsay was not in the kitchen. But yes, Modern Steak’s chef cares just as much.However, the plates looked fantastic to Mr. Fab and the rest of the reporters. The Benchmark Angus prime grade ribeye was cooked to rare perfection.Dessert was beef-free but equally delicious. Pavlova, a tonic bean meringue with fruit salad, lemon curd and dotted with basil mint gel, went well with the paired moscato, but I always enjoy a fine wine lineup to aid my consumption. Which was why I denied the server trying to take them away from me.While the prized bovines relaxed before their trip back to Benchmark HQ in Warner, AB, Modern Steak owner Stephen Deere hinted at a new venture: Modern Burger. He was mum on the details, but perhaps a little bourbon will loosen his lips. Modern Steak and Benchmark will partner up again for the Official Jack Daniels Stampede Dinner on Tuesday, July 11.
Last night Chef Meets BC Grape bloomed in Calgary, transforming the staid scene of a Hyatt ballroom into a boozy bounty of bonhomie. BC wines have come a long way, baby, growing from just 17 grape wineries in 1990 to 278 today. Didja know the Okanagan Valley is warmer than Napa Valley, and gets two hours more sunlight per day during peak growing season? However, my mission was more flavonoid than factoid. Here’s my tasting report.First, I sipped one of my fave blushes, Hush by Dirty Laundry. Light and summery, with a name that only adds to the satisfaction. Yes, I’m a word nerd.
Next, I moseyed over to the Haywire table, where a jauntily-named sparkling wine caught my eye. Crisp, fresh, and definitely not sweet, The Bub was a delightful discovery — and destined to be my prosecco replacement this sumer.
Then it was time to see what the Calgary foodie crew had on offer. Deane House’s bison terrines were delish, with designer books in the background to add to the ambience. The suggested pairing was with another vintner’s red, but I took my terrine straight to my all-time favorite BC red. Burrowing Owl just keeps getting better and better in the rouge department. If you really want to be a burrowing baller, ask for the Athene. None of their higher end blend was on hand, unforch. But I managed to make do with multiple tastes of their Merlot, Cab Franc and Syrah. Yeah!Despite Duncan Ly’s departure for foreign pastures, Raw Bar brought their A-game to the event. Not only because of the automatic caviar qualification (Northern Divine lives up to its name), but also because their nori crusted steel head salmon bites were amaaaazing. See what I did there with all those As?Finally, an unexpected swoon over a Chardonnay. Until now, I’ve never found a BC chard that blows my hair back, despite my fangirlness over Okanagan wines in general. But Culmina is a new blend, by experienced experts. The Triggs (of Jackson-Triggs) consider this to be a culmination of their life’s work. It’s complex and lovely, and expensive (retails for about $55). To which I say, Cheers!
If you’ve been cooking three squares a day on the home front for the past few years, perhaps you haven’t noticed — Calgary has been caught up in a foodie revolution. A hot new eatery seems to open every month downtown, on 17th, in Inglewood or in other cool YYC hoods. And it’s not just culinary art that creates the experience — interior design is also a prime part of the food mood. So when I was invited to a panel discussion of four of Calgary’s busiest restaurant interior designers, moderated by Jennifer Hamilton of Avenue Magazine, I couldn’t resist.
On the left, Amanda Hamilton, who recently did the interior of Native Tongues, told us she’d loved restaurants ever since she was an Earl’s girl. Kate Allen, center, known for her work on Bridgette Bar, Model Milk and Anju, said, “At the start of a project, the designer should be mostly listening.”
Talk quickly turned to costs. For everyone who likes to blame the designer for going crazy with expensive details, Amanda said, “I think designers get a bad rap for blowing budgets.”
On the right, Sarah Ward (Nash, Proof, Cluck and Cleaver) credited Chef Michael Noble for changing her financial outlook on design. “Prior to working with him as designer, I didn’t realize the impact of how my design affected the bottom line. You have to be careful of applied costs down the road.”
Sally Healy (pictured below), the designer behind Our Daily Brett and the now-shuttered Borgo Trattoria and Capo, was quick to chime in: “It affects us too. Cuz if they go broke like some of my restaurants have…”
The boldest of the bunch, Sally’s the type of designer who can make you believe in a project from sheer force of personality. One of her top priorities when starting a new design? “You have to decide where the sex in the room is.”
“Once a client gives their wish list, I do have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to cost.”
“I Was Saved by the Bell – Stories of Life, Love and Dreams that Do Come True.”
I am the only person I know who didn’t watch Saved by the Bell growing up. Somehow I missed out on America’s favorite teen sitcom — all 86 episodes and 2 TV films, which author Peter Engel executive produced.
It doesn’t matter, though. Even without the thrill of recognition of characters watched pre-cable-proliferation, I loved this book. I’m normally not a bio imbiber – more of a fiction fanatic. But Engel’s life is so interesting, and the way he tells his story is so charming, that I was captivated from the first page. Also, as someone who’s produced a bit of film and television myself, I can identify.
He got his start as a page at NBC in the Fifties, working on shows like The Tonight Show and The Perry Como Show. He detoured into political activism, campaigning for John F. Kennedy. He even had a brief marriage to a Canadian Ice Capades skater.
However, his heart never strayed from his main passion: making a hit TV show that he could believe in.
As the page-turning stories intensified, I began to realize that Engel’s reason for writing his book is beyond autobiographical. He has a message to everyone pursuing a dream: never, never, never, never quit. It’s a good one to take to heart.
Turn that frown upside down It’s been long and brutally cold winter in Calgary this year. As the calendar officially flips to spring tomorrow, the snow and ice here aren’t quite ready to leave . A recent house-bound week of -30 temps makes me want to flee to Hawaii, but too many work commitments mean sifting through old vacation photos instead. With a long-term outlook that calls for more chilly days ahead, my personal level of optimism matches the temperature.
For a little spring training in harnessing the power of positivity, I turned to Dr. Sanam Hafeez, who frequently appears on CNN and Dr.Oz. She’s a NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist and teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College. These are her suggestions for turning that frown upside down.
“Keep a daily appreciation or gratitude journal. When you focus on all the things to be happy for in your life, then more great things come. Think generally. Use your senses. What do you appreciate seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, listening to? Write it down. Within a few weeks you’ll train the mind to pivot to an appreciate thought when a negative thought comes,” explains Dr. Hafeez.2. Make plans.
Making plans to see relatives, a new exhibit or to travel gets our mind moving forward, toward something positive that we can be hopeful and optimistic about. Dr. Hafeez suggests making plans to do 3 things per month for the next 3 months. “Choose things that you know will bring you joy and then go do them! Feeling excited about what is coming and talking about how fun it will be keeps us optimistic,” says Dr. Hafeez.3. Control what you can, delegate the rest!
We get pessimistic and worry about the worst possible outcomes when we realize that we can’t control every detail. This leads to anxiety and an even stronger feeling of having to control conditions, and even others. According to Dr. Hafeez, this is a trap. “Figure out what needs to get done. What actions you can take. Then let go of anything else that is beyond your control with faith that everything will turn out fine. Envision the desired outcome,” advises Dr. Hafeez.4. Limit your news watching and avoid it before bed.
“There is a very common pattern I see people falling into,” says Hafeez. “People awaken and immediately reach for their smartphone for headlines. They then turn on the TV news as background noise. They listen to news in their cars, have news alerts going off on their phones all day, catch the evening news and then the 11pm news before bed. No wonder they’re less optimistic! What you choose to look at will impact your mood. Remember, good news doesn’t get ratings,” she adds.5. Don’t snooze. Instead, just breathe.
When the alarm goes off give yourself a few minutes to just lie there, eyes closed focused on your breathing. Breathe in counting to 4 and then breathe out. Do a mental scan of your entire body from head to toe thanking your cells for restoring you as you slept. “Deep breathing is a form of meditation and in the morning, you have a small window of opportunity to decide what kind of day you want it to be,” says Dr. Hafeez.6. Distract yourself with something that requires focus.
Pick something you truly enjoy doing and do it daily. It can be painting, coloring, yoga, a 20-minute walk or jog, listening to music and dancing around your living room. “When you are fully engaged in something, you can’t ruminate — which leads to pessimism,” explains Dr. Hafeez.7. Make feeling good top priority.
When you commit to feeling good, you instantly start to think more optimistically. According to Dr. Hafeez, when you’re mindful of your own negativity and shift to a better feeling – positive thought – you feel powerful. You’ll feel like you can conquer anything when you can master your own mindset.
Sounds like a recipe for springing into spring! I’m going to try these tips on for size. You?
It’s never too early to start kickin’ it Western style in Calgary. Besides, chucks fans will be filling those grandstands in two shakes of a thoroughbred’s tail. So may I recommend the pre-distressed Geneva bootie, by Musse & Cloud, to get you in the hootin’ and hollerin’ mood?If you haven’t heard of them, Musse & Cloud is a boutique European brand, inspired by bohemian silhouettes. The soft burnished leather and padded insoles ensure instant comfort for your feet. And the boho chic factor easily translates to style moments beyond Stampede. Coachella, anyone?Feel like kicking it up a notch? The Millie meets all requirements for sophisticated big city style. Personally, I’m riveted. And, always helpful if you’re Canadian, and you feel obliged to kick off your heels every time you step inside, these Spanish suede booties make it easy to do with a heel zipper.Check ‘em out here... and guess what? They’re having a sale.
My polo ponies may be out in the pasture, but they’re still on my mind… all the time. Are they eating enough? Will they be warm this winter? Gabby (above) is a pro at snow, but it’s the first Canadian winter for Mojito (below).
If you still haven’t rounded up the perfect gift for your horse-obsessed loved one this Christmas, allow me to suggest two books – both charming, but totally different from each other.
Lead with Your Heart: Lessons from a Life with Horses is written by a neurosurgeon with a passion for horses. Dr. Allan J. Hamilton’s writing style is not Dry MD — which is probably why he’s a script consultant for both Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. His book is a collection of bite-sized essays on training, peppered with examples from horses he’s worked with, and non-horse situations that he believes draw a clear parallel… like kids at the grocery store checkout.Horse Owners’ Essential Tips may have a humdrum name and yawn-inducing cover art, but this is definitely a case of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Inside, Philippe Meyrier’s down-to-earth conversational writing style, along with cute illustrations, detailing all kinds of great ideas. Tips include natural fly repellent, a cure for chapped lips, and -my favorite- a suggestion to stop ponies from nibbling on wooden fences or stall doors.Both books are a wonderful winter vacation read. I know I’ll be consulting them again in the spring, when it’s time to get my fat polo ponies fit again. Merry Christmas!