ECCO, the Danish footwear company, rolled out their tastefully understated grey carpet this week for their new store at Chinook Centre, featuring street wear styles so suave you’ll forget that they’re also… comfortable.Retail Division Manager Ron King prefers not to use that word. “Comfortable conveys the wrong image,” he says. Ie — these are not your grandma’s shoes. In from Toronto to help launch the store, he shows me the super-lightweight, super-soft leather that signals ECCO’s core craftsmanship.Watch out CTV Calgary. Bob Sumner is considering a new career in shoe modeling. And who thinks jumping up on new yak-leather benches is socially acceptable? But you can tell from the lack of raised eyebrows that it’s standard fashion blogger behavior — when one is amped up about ECCO’s just-launched Soft 7 leather high-tops. Light as a feather!
It’s here! After months of anticipation, Calgarians will no longer have to stalk West Elm online. The fourth Canadian bricks-and-mortar location has sprung up just off the 17th Ave shopping district — part of the recent revival of Mount Royal Village. Maybe this means the nearby bizarre public toilet that costs a quarter and is used by no one will soon be flushed from the hood. As usual, I digress.The urban-loft-warehouse style space opened in the Blue Besos preferred manner: with a party! Catering was provided by the delectable Nicole Gourmet. If you were lucky, your glass was topped up by the marvelous Marlene McCarthy, who is also marvelous on the Calgary polo field, the site of many other fantastic parties.Back to the shopping. The Brooklyn-based West Elm is a sister store to the Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn empire, so it is essentially all kinds of hip for your home. On the local front, it’s partnering with Calgary artists and craftspeople for unique in-store items. Welcome to the neighborhood, West Elm!
Boy, was it a hot one last night! 35 degrees Celsius at the Calgary Polo Club. That’s 95 Fahrenheit, my American friends. Still, look at my faithful steed Simon go! He’s flying ahead of doggy doc Tom LeBoldus’ pony. How do you like them apples?Or carrots? Before the game I checked out the new Juice Because pop-up at Willow Park Village to stock up on some tangy and energizing Peter. Named after a certain rabbit, I’m guessing.It must have helped, because I even managed to hit a ball or two. Our camo-jerseyed Team KatSaw made it into the finals, which are scheduled for tomorrow if it doesn’t rain. Meanwhile, check out KatSaw Farms patron Ross Prokopy making a splash in purple at the Veuve Classic.The temporary cold-pressed juice shop off Macleod Trail and Willow Park Dr SE is a handy pit-stop on the way to the polo club, but if you don’t check it out before they close on August 31st, don’t worry — they deliver! Head to their website.Meanwhile, come on out and tailgate at the Calgary Polo Club — soon, before the season ends. This heat won’t last forever.
If there are yellow jerseys on the field at the Calgary Polo Club…… and people like Gael-Anne Hatch and Chad Oakes (producer of must-see TV shows Fargo and Hell On Wheels) in the VIP Lounge…… then it must be the 2015 Veuve Clicquot Calgary Polo Classic. This is where the bubbles meet the storied hardwood of the Ranch House bar.Leslie Echino, owner of Blink Restaurant, and Katy Bond of Parker Bond PR managed to look dewey fresh and delightful despite 30-degree heat.While Rob Peters, the man who started Peters & Co, Elaine Duncan and leather-vest wearing horse whisperer John Scott kept cool inside.Katrina Prokopy, the inspiration behind hubby Ross’ team KatSaw Farms (he named it for his wife and son Sawyer), knows this is no time for a Mona Lisa smile. Especially with a pair of Prada Baroques perched above. Go big or go home!Meanwhile, alpha male Ross Prokopy of GMP Securities proves that not only does he play an aggressive game of polo, he also makes a mean mimosa.Despite the talent in Club League, I celebrated a rare summer week of bruise-free legs. Veiled spectator-sporting Paula Marie took support staffing to a stylish new level.While Gordon Ross of Remax and Bernadette Geronazzo, who’s accustomed to being In The Public Eye, toasted the game…… that was still in progress, beyond the revelers at the Ranch House. Mitch Horne checks up for Land Rover, under Allison Rooney’s watchful eye.It was only fitting that Team Veuve, aka Northern Blizzard, took home the cup. John Rooney, CEO of Northern Blizzard Resources, hoists his bubbly, with long-time pro Joe Henderson in the background. Cheers!
Tucked into the trees of Priddis, a hamlet 40-ish minutes from downtown Calgary, lies a sophisticated little hotel that is verrry boutique — just 13 suites.The top photo was of Emerald Manor, a guest house built to accompany this private residence, Sapphire Hall. Before the two buildings (which lie within 25 kms of 4 golf courses) became the Azuridge Hotel three years ago, they were the private getaway of DIRTT rebel entrepreneur Mogens Smed.At 13,000 square feet, Sapphire Hall was primed to become a hotel. My room was on the top left, one of the few suites available in the main house. The name of Sapphire Hall is courtesy of the current geologist owners, who took their christening inspiration from precious gemstones.There are subtle flourishes of extravagance every step of the way. Why offer a plastic card when a room key can exude luxury car? (Back when luxury cars had keys, that is).That key led to a room that shared no walls with other guests. With the hotel’s signature drink, Dangerous Diamond (a sparkling concoction of prosecco and elder flower liqueur, blue curaçao and caviar), to help with the journey along a view-strewn hallway.If you didn’t guess from the key chain, my destination was the Pearl Room. With complimentary pearl to take home. Naturally erratic, it reminded me of the pearls I found in Sayulita.King size bed? Check. Frette sheets? Enthusiastic check!The evening I was there was so warm I had to close the curtains against the sun. Lounging poolside would have been perfect — if there was a pool. However, Azuridge has other options in the relaxation department.Eating is one of the main activities on offer. The Opal Dining Room has a lovely layout…… but I was lured out to the patio for the incredible west-facing vista, just in time for a Rocky Foothills sunset. A helpful server somehow achieved the perfect balance with the umbrella, adjusting against eye glare while allowing for a perfect sightline to the horizon, for the ball of fire’s evening bow. Meanwhile, the salad was lovely. And I was impressed by the lion head on the white ceramic soufflé bowl. Because I am impressed by things like that. Here’s another shot for the foodies: gelato served in an ice-block holder. With edible pansies. Merely a palate cleanser between courses.Afterwards, I returned to my room to find all my makeup arranged ever so thoughtfully. Why don’t all hotels do this? Azuridge, though, is a standout in the service department. Home to the only guilded butler in North America, the hotel strives to raise pampering to the penultimate. The gold box is my go-to for Aerin’s easy-packing eye palette, btw.Besides romantic getaways, Azuridge specializes in group retreats, conferences and weddings.Should you feel the urge to explore Azuridge’s 13 acres, you’ll probably run into this guy, who has spawned his own urban myth (although urban is not the right word for this part of the world). Steven Spielberg is a regular guest due to a show jumping daughter who competes regularly at Spruce Meadows. Rumor has it that Mr. Spielberg gave it to the hotel. However, I must burst that prehistoric bubble. T-Rex was already on the property when the geologists acquired it. And what a property it is! Aaah, Azuridge.
There’s a new champagne on the liquid landscape…… and a new way to drink it: in a Chardonnay glass. With garnish. Over ice. RICH by Veuve Clicquot was designed to be mingled with other ingredients. Mixology, move over. This is Cliquology.
Coming to just one store near you (Zyn gets the exclusive listing in Calgary), Veuve Clicquot’s new champagne isn’t easy to find. And after taking two years of research before jumping on the mixology trend, Veuve likes it that way. The local launch party for Rich wasn’t even in Calgary — it was held at Azuridge, Priddis’ hidden hotel jewel.On my way in, I bumped into Clarence McLeod, the only guilded butler in North America. Besides being the Queen’s man on the ground in Canada, he is also the general manager of Azuridge. The hotel’s Opal Dining Room will be the only restaurant in Southern Alberta pouring Rich.Only five Canadian cities are enjoying the honor of a formal introduction to the French sparkling wine with the Anglo name, and local media had to work for their knowledge of the best way to serve the new bubbles. The women were up for the task of slicing infusers like cucumbers and bell peppers, but please note the blank looks on Ryan Massel and Vincent Law. I get it. Is there a bartender in the house?Anyway, back to the cocktails. Apparently I over-peppered, but it didn’t matter. Rich is sweeter than Veuve’s staple champagne, allowing it to work nicely with various vegetables and melting ice. Un peu trop doux for me (I prefer vodka with my cucumbers) but fans of pinot gris will love it. An infusion of grapefruit and tea leaves was my favorite, but risky. The potential for tea leaves in my teeth was too great. Also, while I support the specially designed glasses – they hold more champagne than your average flute – sipping while restraining an ice avalanche takes skill that might not be in abundance after a few glasses.Once the champagne kicked in, so did the photo-ops. Drew Tollerud of IBM demonstrates just what would inspire a mad genius to make a mad dash: beaucoup de Champagne and snappy orange accoutrements.Those accessories included Veuve swag in the form of these silver shades, all the better to discern the dazzling view from Azuridge. A votre sante, RICH!
Sometimes, rain gets in the way of my professional polo career. (And yes, in case the real pros at the Calgary Polo Club are wondering, that line is ironic). But last week, the dark clouds above our city had a silver lining: an opportunity to taste the Lobster Summer menu at the Keg.
Mike Morrison, author of the best-selling book, Calgary By Bike, and Buzz Bishop of XL 103 had the photographic good fortune to sit across from me during wave after wave of lobster delicacies. Try eating a few appies like Szechwan Lobster and Lobster Gratinee. Followed by a half lobster and steak, i.e. Surf + Turf. And throw in a 3-ounce Canadian Atlantic lobster tail. Members of the Calgary media were up to the task. And should you be cray-cray enough to take the crayfish challenge yourself, you have until August 30th, at Kegs across Canada.
Another Stampede has come and gone in Calgary, in a blur of pre-parties, concerts at Fort Calgary and a midway victory that left me with a giant stuffed moose on my first try, thanks to a Whack-A-Mole hammer that reminded me of a polo mallet. It was a stretch, but allowed me to channel my inner winner, just like Team Blue Besos did for the second week in a row on Saturday. But looking back on Stampede 2015, two highlights stand out the most — one of which was, claro, a fashion moment.Met this miss from Texas in her custom-made Maida boots in the VIP tent at Sheryl Crow. Tear your eyes from the deluxe dirt in our alcohol-flowing cage beside the stage and feast your eyes on Cynthia Wood, who wins the Blue Besos Fave Stampede Outfit award, due to the details.From the saddlebag with the perfect rodeo trifecta of leather, fringe and rhinestones…
… down to the ostrich and calf boots that took nine months to make…… it was the heel-clicking positivity of her soles’ soulful message that spoke to me: lucky in love and lucky in business. Those gears in the right horseshoe are her company logo, Gimmal.But even if they’re straight off the shoe rack, any kind of boots will help you stomp your way through Stampede. On my right, LA producer Debbie Emery puts her best foot forward to blend in with the locals while shooting her new sports insider travel show, Sportstown USA.Of course, to get the right shot, you have to get up close and personal. Being right on the rail comes with a risk, as the cowboy to my left kindly warned me. If I kept gaping, mouth ajar, I’d probably swallow some mud.But I couldn’t help it — I was obsessed with the outriders. The lead man up front is tasked with steadying five amped-up horses and pointing them in the right direction before the race. Which is enough to inspire some slack-jaw, but wait — there’s more.When the horn blares and the stove man at the back has thrown the “stove” into the wagon (not kidding!!) he has to run out of the way before he gets run over…… then hop onto his steed while it’s all hopped up! Somehow, even with those stirrups swinging wildly, each outrider manages to settle in for a speedy lap around the track, making sure to stay within 150 yards of their wagon. It’s not only me who considers the outriders fascinating — each one in the Calgary Stampede comes with their own trading card.Sadly, the Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth has concluded for 2015, but we’ll be back to cheer the chucks next year!
Calgary designer Kat Marks is a Jill of many trades, designing in leather, plastic, PVC and textiles, even custom moulded leather armour. She recently opened up her airy 1st Street studio so several of us lucky non-designers could try our hands at Lethrbar, a deluxe DIY experience.
Alberta actor Cody Sparshu might be cheating the shot (such a professional) but he’s not acting — he’s tapping his name into a leather luggage tag. He does all his own stunts. PR maven Katy Bond gives good background, diving in for some letter stamps of her own.
Look at this roundtable of influencers: Casey Wagar, aka Fancy Bro, on the far left. Actor/Producer Cody Sparshu, designer Kat Marks, fashion blogger Vincent “Binzento” Law and Katy Bond of Parker Bond PR. In the foreground, Mandy Balak, Founder of Branded Magazine, is totally focused on her art. The group looks well-behaved in the photo, but this stitch work station offered the bitch option. What else are you gonna do while sewing en masse?Vincent eschewed paint to go nude.But, claro, the Blue Besos tag had to be blue. Turns out when you layer Kat’s turquoise paint, you get a distressed denim look. Love it! Check out Kat’s website to book your own experience.
This year, Brett’s soiree had a hashtag instead of a title: #OMGP, which officially stood for Oh My Garden Party, but Tweeters not in the know got into a social media lather over potential inspirations for the acronym . A favorite annual event amongst Calgary’s social set, the Mount Royal garden party happens rain or shine — under a massive, 40×80 foot tent that works for any weather. Stunt rider and provider of many an animal for the film industry, John Scott is pictured alongside the lovely Elaine Duncan of The Eagle 100.9 FM. Nice to see the man who taught Brad Pitt how to ride taking time out for a little R&R. Which could be a cool brand — on a horse, not an advertising campaign. Not for John’s horses though. His steeds in today’s Stampede parade were working, not relaxing.As is appropriate for the city currently hosting the richest rodeo on earth, #OMGP was chock full of cowboys. Brian Hanson, Vice President of Smithbilt Hats, attended with Makenzie Martinson, Seismic Technologist.Country crooner Corb Lund rounded out the cowboy lineup. Stalking the stage, David Gray of CBC’s The Eyeopener told me, “I’m a major Corb Lund fan!”When Brett Wilson talks, people listen. Especially when it’s about his charities of choice, supporting adolescent mental health. Guests were asked to pony up (cash or cheque at the door!) for CMHA Calgary, the Juno Foundation, the Calgary Counselling Centre and Wood’s Homes/Aboriginal Youth.In another section of the gargantuan garden, anyone who didn’t heed Brett’s speech over the speakers shushed instantly at the sound of realtor extraordinaire Gordon Ross’ whistle (old school, with classic finger-in-mouth technique). Seen here in the sharp blue blazer with partner Richard Cote (left).Quirky accents abounded…… including Don Cherry impersonator, Clark Robertson, with Chantelle Harris. Blurry photos courtesy of my memory-full iPhone 5.After raising four hundred thousand (and still counting) for deserving charities, revelers two-stepped into the wee hours. Oh My! Great Party!