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!
As everyone in Calgary knows, it has been weeks with wind chill in the unhappy -30 degrees Celsius range, with no chinook to break up the bitter cold, unless you count Chinook Centre. Recently I did join the hoards of Christmas mall walkers, but despite the indoor exercise, the extreme temperatures outside seeped into the atmosphere. With every step, strands of hair zapped my cheeks with electricity. Brushing it meant auditioning to be the poster girl for any science center with a static electricity ball. Yet, during this entire deep freeze, my sensitive facial skin has been blissfully unaffected.
Why? Because of these little pods, packed with powerful recovery concentrate, including includes ChronoluxAI technology. Estee Lauder suggests using them every night for two weeks, whenever your skin is stressed. Winter in one of the driest climates in North America seemed like the optimum time to twist an ampoule and spread oil all over my face before bed.Normally, at this time of year, my skin is pasty, and shadows under my eyes demand makeup. But I caught sight of myself in the mirror a few days ago, and wondered if I had somehow gotten a tan. My skin has a glow to it that usually never happens this time of year, unless I’ve been polo-ing it up somewhere warm. An ampoule each night is more than enough to amp up my skin’s softness, and retain moisture. I was hoping the Advanced Night Repair Intensive Recovery Ampoules might eradicate a few wrinkles, but they don’t quite go that far. However, radiant skin with a plumped-up appearance is a major step in the youthful direction.
On the corner of 7th Street and 10th Avenue SW, under the benevolent gaze of MacLean and Partners, a new “chef-driven” bar has opened, as their website proclaims. Which, I suspect, is a different way of saying restaurant. I support an original turn of phrase, but sly semantics aren’t needed for a sunny spotlight. Bridgette Bar is bound to shine, far above the eatery herd. Read on to see for yourself.
I was delighted to be invited to an opening day exclusive sneak peek to sample a wide selection from the dinner menu. It was hard to tear myself away from the earthenware-encased watercress and charred beet salad… … and the excellent conversation at our table, in order to capture the moment, along with entrancing design details. But as faithful readers of Blue Besos know, I never shy from flexing my blog biceps in the name of naming the new It Place. And Bridgette Bar, the latest brainchild of the Concorde Group, could be It.
Despite the casual striped napkins and friendly flora, this private dining table is destined for VIPs. The sum of Bridgette’s namesake font choice, the macrame, even the menu items give it a 70s ski lodge vibe…
… yet the airy loft space of the former Montauk store will take Bridgette from winter through to motorcycle season with ease.If the penultimate Pink Pompadour isn’t your style (although pisco, st. germain, pink grapefruit, lime and peychauds are cerainly mine) the cocktail menu has a lengthy list of reasonably priced wines, beers and bubbles. Along with several other drinks sure to boost Uber’s 2.0 in YYC.
Feeling uninspired this year, buying presents for people who already seem to have everything? Don’t feel like fighting for a parking spot at the mall in order to spread goodwill under the Christmas tree? Or perhaps you’re worried about the carbon footprint of driving to the mall, buying gifts shrouded in extra packaging, and wrapping them in more packaging, aka paper and ribbons? Not to mention the environmental cold shoulder everyone being hit by the cold snap right now is giving to Mother Nature, warming up our cars for ages. Or else just leaving them running while we shop, Alberta-style, yearning for that global warming everyone is talking about.I’ve found the solution. One size fits all, and it can be bought online. No waiting for the post office to lose your delivery, either, because nothing actually gets delivered.
For $30, TreeEra will plant 25 trees in the name of whomever you choose to gift. Founded by Calgary musician Michael Fitzgerald, tree adopters will be notified of just where their baby trees are growing. So you can visit, if you’re in the area.Since the newly-formed profit-for-purpose company is in the fledgling stages itself, the first planting will be in the spring, with locations and tree types still tbd. However, the company has big dreams: to plant a billion trees. You can subscribe to a monthly membership, if you’d like to help on the regular. It’s the gift that keeps growing. Merry Christmas!
Somehow, it’s not surprising that James Cox goes by the less formal JR. After all, the CEO of the ginormous gun range, The Shooting Edge, brought in the folks from Knott’s Berry Farm to design this kid-friendly fun-gun booth at his facility. Yet his passion for formal shooting wear inspired him to bring William Evans to Calgary, where I’m delighted to report JR was serving excellent wine at the opening party. He’s not an arms dealer on three continents for nothing. For the record, that shady deal in War Dogs? JR turned it down.William Evans is known for making the type of clothing required to go shooting with Prince Charles, and the tweeds needed for any high-level experience of country life. With two shops in England (London and Bisley), it seemed only natural to JR that a third should open in Alberta. Attached to his gun range.At the recent VIP Sneak Peek (or Sneak a Peek, if you’re partial to Stampede linguistics) the British Consul General to Calgary, Caroline Saunders, enthusiastically agreed. Why do Duck Dynasty when shooting with the Windsors is so much more stylish?Just inside the northeast entrance to the Calgary Farmers’ Market, happy hunters can find ties made of 100% English woven silk or wool and silk mix, featuring favorite prey, or loyal best friends.My favorite of the evening was this jacket by Spanish brand T.ba, known for its attention to the elegant equestrian social set.
Down the hall from the cocktails and canapés at William Evans, customers shopped for explosive Christmas gifts at The Shooting Edge…… and practiced retaliation against any Grinch attacks.But excellent soundproofing prevented any gunfire audio at the soiree. Meanwhile, Smithbilt’s lead hat designer Holly Allen was on hand to get our heads in the game. Her hats are available for purchase alongside all the high-quality hunting attire. I gave country sloane a try, while Holly spectated.
It is currently so cold in Calgary that throats are as dry as the Sahara, despite the irony of a desert descriptor. You need to ground yourself before you kiss anyone — the electrical hazard is that bad. Not to mention how awful your hands feel after wash them. Tight. Uncomfortable. DRY.
That’s why it’s the perfect time to treat yourself to AERIN’s Rose Night Table Cream and Overnight Mask. The rose scent has a winter weight to it, without being cloying. There’s an unidentifiable spice to it that adds to the sophisticated bedtime slather. I admit, I may be a teeny bit biased about AERIN products, since I love Ms. Lauder’s story as a lifestyle tycoon. I tend to be thrilled by all her products, even when I’m occasionally confused by the reason for them, as I was for this cream for both hair and body. Sometimes I just need to study up on the press release, but it never comes with the package anymore. Which is why, despite my best googling efforts to assist, I’m unsure what the Mask aspect is for this cream. Face? Hands? It doesn’t matter. The mystery just makes it better.
However, I’m off on a rant that supersedes the character max of all our attention spans. Treat yourself to some Rose Cream. Especially if you’re doing the gold or brass accent in your interior design, since your au so courant tastes will be a match with the lid. No hiding this pretty jar of night table cream.
Looking for brunch ideas this weekend? Look no further than Hayden Block. Even if you wake up at 2pm on Saturday or Sunday. Because they serve brunch until 3.Hayden Block Smoke and Whiskey is housed in – you guessed it – the Hayden Block heritage building on one of the cutest blocks in Kensington. The weather wasn’t warm enough to grab a spot outside this time around, but those heat lamps could mean an early al fresco spring.I’ll be honest. Texas-style barbecue is not normally my style. We found a sunny table by the window, and I prepared to be underwhelmed. However. The Eggs Benny arrived perfectly soft, atop a giant portion of pulled pork, with a subtle Hollandaise sauce. Tastebuds. Invigorated. In fact, this just might be my favorite benny in Calgary. I even ate all the potatoes, which I never do. They were excellent on their own, but the choices of three barbecue sauces at the table didn’t hurt.
The next plate was even more exciting. With whipped cream, blueberry compote and a big mound of meat, the buttermilk waffles were a taste collision that was delicious. By the way that sweet meat was a carne-val of candied burnt ends.If I could change one thing at Hayden Block, I’d up the ante with the Caesar. Not that it was bad, mind you. But everything else we tried was so powerfully palatable, I was craving a little more wham, bam, clamato ma’am! Still, I managed to quaff two without any real issues. Excellent brunch, Hayden Block. I’ll be back!
Recently I was invited to the Canadian Rockies for a world premiere at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. It was too warm to break out my fur, but it’s never too toasty for a caliente selfie. In my own mind, anyhow.
The Banff Centre, where this modern frame to old glory (the mountain, not me!) stands, hosts many screenings of the film fest. Although I have to warn you, the restaurant immediately to the right of this shot, despite jaw-dropping views of the Rockies, served up the worst breakfast I’ve ever had. Cold eggs. Cold toast. It was so bad, it was beyond words. We just paid quietly. Because when the orange juice arrived at the table in a plastic bottle, I blamed myself. Apparently I had missed the cafeteria quotient in the description online for MacLab Bistro. But I digress! Want to hear about the film? And where we shacked up? First, the Banff Glam. Bio pic Drawing Home tells the unlikely-but-true love story between a Boston debutante (who was dating John D Rockefeller III, the most eligible bachelor in the world) and a young painter from Banff… aka Peter Whyte. Shot in the actual home of the Whytes (now a museum) and showcasing beautiful Rocky Mountain vistas, the film is a must-see for anyone planning to visit Banff National Park. Drawing Home is currently doing the film festival circuit, so we may have to wait a while before we can Netflix and chill with it.Meanwhile, major kudos to the main actors, seen at their post-screening Q&A on the right. They’re both locals, which just demands extra love for this film. Juan Riedinger grew up in Banff, and Julie Lynn Mortensen is from Calgary. Next, the Canadiana Hip. I invite you to peep behind Door Number 262, at Elk+Avenue, in the town center of Banff. On the corner of Banff Avenue and Elk Street, to be specific.You may remember the old International Hotel. Brewsters Travel Canada, the owners, have refurbished and rebranded the three-story hotel, raising the rooms to modern mountain level. The silver tree stump was an excellent home for Chinese Checkers, even if my camera didn’t like it. And yes, there may have been a birthday involved during this overnight getaway.In Room 262, literally on the corner of Elk and Banff Ave, the view of the mountains and the main drag coexist peacefully.Of course, the suite came complete with a bed. But the super-cool travel humidifier is our own. I highly recommend bringing one to Banff, where the air is crazy dry.
Elk + Avenue is just a few minutes’ walk from all the restaurants and shops in downtown Banff, and oozes Canadiana hip. Congrats on the new design! A perfect accompaniment for any trip involving Banff Glam.
When we booked a week in the West Village, with our flights scheduled to arrive on November 8th, I suspected we’d be in for an historic visit. But I don’t think anyone anticipated the seismic results of Election 2016. Even my usual See+Do is feeling the ripple effect. Still, I was lucky enough to experience many wonderful places. Please read on.
My Guide to Dining & Drinking in the West Village and beyond… while trying to put a happy face on political sadness.
On Election Night, the Empire State Building blazed red, white and blue. In the West Village, Highlands Gastropub was festooned with a giant American flag outside, and raucous Hillary supporters inside. At regular intervals they traded television pundits’ audio for entertaining anti-Trump rants. When they played Robert De Niro’s, the Dems were looking good. I had to raise my glass. Which, by the way, was filled with the perfect martini. Cucumber to muddle? Botanist gin? No problem. I love it when my drink requests are do-able. Calgary, I’m looking at you.Of course, we all know what happened next…… a dark day in America. When we stopped by Highlands again later in the week (because it’s that good), the bartender remembered my drink. And confided that he had closed the bar on November 8th to grown men crying.At Toby’s Estate Coffee Shop on Charles Street, the day after the popular vote did not elect the president, I thanked the barista for the heart atop of his perfectly brewed cappuccino. He said, “We all needed some extra love right now.” Yes.So I’m going back to what I usually do on Blue Besos: tell you about the things I love. Starting with this little coffee spot. Of all the java joints in the West Village, Toby’s was the place we kept coming back to. Get there before 10 am if you want a croissant, because they go fast.
If you’re in the mood for a full meal, however, Buvette is one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. Waffles with gorgonzola, bacon and syrup, anyone? The space is extremely tight and extremely charming. Half a dozen people did a server ballet behind the counter, without ever bumping into each other. This serious fellow in the beard would quietly call for service when the meals were ready, and waiters appeared to take cappuccino-machine-steamed eggs away. After this magnificent mocha, I forgot to take photos of the food. Je sues désolé.With all the walking we did, we worked up the need for sustenance again just a few hours later. Jeffrey’s Grocery was there, ready with rose and fresh oysters.We didn’t go to Dominique Bistro, which I regret. Because… look at it!However, we did try some of the most unusual soy and black garlic deviled eggs at Bar Sardine, on one of the best corners for people watching in the West Village. That is an unqualified statement, of course, but you do have a corner view from the bar. That will pass any fact check.This photo was taken at Rosemary’s (after the pre-dinner drink at Highlands) when I though the waitress was joking when she said who was winning. Anyhow. We loved this place, even though their burrata dish has no tomatoes. Their rooftop garden provides the fresh seasonings that make everything incredibly delicious. We also stopped in to a place I’ve been many times. Balthazar is a fantastic respite in the middle of a Soho shopping spree, and their steak tartare never disappoints. The tower of frites was a constant theme, everywhere we dined. So were protests, like this one, outside of Jeffrey’s Grocery.And this one, on Fifth Avenue. With its unfortunate address next door to Trump Tower, there would be no shopping at Tiffany’s today. However, it did inspire us to duck into the Peninsula Hotel at 55th Street, to recalibrate our retail strategy. The rooftop terrace (not pictured) offers $23 drinks, mediocre service and excellent views of Trump Tower. As the day dialed into evening, we could see the protests continuing on Fifth, under the super moon, with outdoor heaters keeping us warm. Disappointed with the Plaza’s Rose Room attempt to make up for the banished Oak Bar, I definitely recommend stopping by the Peninsula’s Salon de Ning instead.Back downtown, we took a breather from politics, and tried to walk off a few calories on the raised railway track, converted into a walkable garden, that flows above Chelsea. Here’s my Highline Selfie. Because when they go low, we go high!