The glorious, awe-inspiring Canadian Rockies! This is the view from the top of the gondola at Lake Louise Ski Resort, which is still open — until May 8th. To my right, you can see the lake which this part of Banff (Canada’s first national park) was named for. The lake, and Deer Lodge, our digs for the weekend, are both only five minutes from the bottom of the hill.The famous turquoise glacier-fed water is already starting to appear through the rink that I played hockey on in February. The paths around the lake are in good conditions for a hike…… but after a day of snowboarding, apres-ski at Deer Lodge, just down the road, is more tempting.First up, into the rooftop hot tub, for a gorgeous view of the sunset over the Rockies. You can just make out the Beehive, a roundish mountain next to Lake Agnes teahouse, a beautiful hike to do in the summer. Meanwhile, this truly is a hot tub time machine, because afterward you’ll find yourself inside Deer Lodge, which is like going back to 1925, the year it opened.Tilt back your glass at the bar and you’ll see this guy, which makes perfect sense, because you’re in the Caribou Lounge. Just because you’re in a UNESCO World Heritage Site doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent drink.After a day of snowboarding it only made sense to apres with a charcuterie platter. It’s something of a specialty at Deer Lodge, because parent company Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts raises its own elk, bison and beef.Now that your tummy is primed for food, mosey by the bighorn to the Mount Fairview Dining Room.The Grilled Alberta Beef with parmesan frites is delectable.If you have room for desert, I highly recommend moving to the Great Room and having it in front of the fire. There is no room service at the hotel, but you’re welcome to bring your own drinks or nibbles up to your room. Ours had an incredible view — check it out.What a wonderful weekend! See you next year, Deer Lodge!
A new restaurant has quietly opened up on the hippest section of First Avenue SW, with no sign except a small speech bubble on the door: Ten Foot Henry.Which is weird, because Henry himself is not known for being discreet. Seen here, directing those in need to the loo, Henry is in all his usual ten-foot glory. But perhaps he’s been relegated to the hallway because he — ahem — would be an overbearing contrast with the subtle decor.
The room is a relief from over-themed design that can sometimes overwhelm the ‘latest new place.’ Light and airy despite the lack of windows, a plethora of hanging plants allude to the freshness of what you’re about to eat.
Aja Lapointe will happily take credit for the food (along with co-founder and executive chef Stephen Smee) but not for the plants. Those are firmly rooted under the green thumbs of Plant Terrariums, my succulent go-to in Inglewood, and Esme.The bar is a great spot for dining solo, but if you’re with friends, get ready to share.Even though the menu was full of intriguing food choices, I had gossip to get to. So I leapt at the lunch suggestion to let the restaurant make all the decisions. The low-priced option has a low-key name, “five plates for $19,” and today it started with the Henry Salad. The Henry kitchen has the rare talent of knowing how not to over-dress. The greens, served to share, were quickly followed with a mushroom omelette made with montasio cheese.
The share plates kept on showing up. Charred broccoli with celery root soubise was next, then a bucatini that was the ultimate in al dente. Dessert is not pictured, because it was raw truffles, concocted from pure cocoa. We ate them too damn fast for photo evidence.
Lunch was paired with a “friendly Valpolicella” (to quote our server, and I totally agree) and the lovely Lana Rogers. A toast to your new PR + Consulting company, Lana, and cheers to Ten Foot Henry, now part of my Calgary top ten restaurant list.
When Johnnie Walker asks if you’d like to host a Scotch Tasting, the only answer is YES.Especially when the event is led by tall taste-tester extraordinaire, Tanner Murray, seen here on the right. Life Where We Are blogger Misty Hamel is pinky-out ready for her first sip, while incoming CEO of Statoil Canada always appreciates peat from across the pond.
Tanner helped us drink our way through any previous misconceptions we may have had about his scotch — the main one being that there’s only one level of Johnnie. Title titan with the whiskeyest wisdom, Tony Kay, Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and British Consul General Calgary, seen above with the dashing red belt, definitely had concerns.
As Tanner tempted our taste buds with Red Label ($27), pairing it with orange chocolate, to twelve-year-old Black Label ($38) pairing with pepper and strawberries, our smiles grew from tall to grande.
My favorite just happens to be named after my theme color: blue. Almost a unicorn of scotch, many haven’t tried Johnnie Walker Blue. Which could have something to do with the minimum 21 years of aging. Or the retail value of $250. Doesn’t it look fab in front of my Most Improved Player award picture from Calgary Polo Club? The bottle provides a lovely accent for my Team Blue Besos jersey. Too bad it’s empty.
Looking for a libation in Vancouver? Skip the booze cruise and take a tour of Chinatown, which is fast becoming a cocktail mecca. Opening just last month, Juniper Kitchen & Bar is where you’ll find bartender Martin Corriveau mixing up small-batch gin martinis and other excellent elixirs.
Oh, this pic is making me pine for a Juniper! The restaurant’s signature cocktail, made with Aviation gin, Juniper berries and Fentimans tonic, is scrumptious. But you also can’t go wrong with the Garden Gin Smash, seen here with the green garnish, the Rad-Ish (local to BC Ampersand gin, radish, dehydrated lemon, pink peppercorn, Lemon tonic) or the Mr. Bava on the bottom (Mr. Bava Bourbon, S.O.V. Amaretto, Cocchi Americano, Aromatic bitters, Ricard).Juniper’s Scotsman ice machine is its secret weapon. Thought to be the only one in BC, the pebble-sized ice cubes melt more slowly, and distribute liquid more evenly in a cocktail. But that’s just one size and shape in the bartending team’s ice arsenal. They pride themselves on their 18 different types of cubes.Important to note: Kitchen isn’t in Juniper Kitchen & Bar’s name for decoration. As seen here in the Wood Platter with pickled local apples, rabbit terrine from the Fraser Valley and local Pepper Jack Jill (a feminized Monterey Jack) the restaurant features Cascadian-inspired fare. I consider myself an Intermediate Foodie, but I hadn’t heard of Cascadian Cuisine. According to the World Food Travel Association, it’s “a bio-region that includes northwestern California, Oregon, Washington, southwestern British Columbia, Idaho and western Montana.” Apparently Vancouver wasn’t digging the ol’ Northwest Cuisine designation, because YVR is in the southwest part of the province.On this particular evening in Vancouver, we made a few more stops on the tour, but when it was time to reduce the blood alcohol level, we came right back to Juniper for dinner. If you go, start with the beets and burrata. Sublime!
What do you do when you’re starting a hipster cocktail bar on the shady side of Main Street (that’s East, for my non-YVR-knowing friends, and I’m not referring to a tree-lined boulevard) and you want to do something different from the rest of faux-fur embracing Vancouver? You put out a call for taxidermy on Facebook, et voila: decor by donation.
The beards behind the bar loved the Mamie Taylor cocktail so much, they named their restaurant after it. Opening in 2013, it helped start the tsunami of Chinatown’s uber-hipness. Soon this city will have no grunge left.As it’s open late, if you’re too bleary-eyed to read their extensive cocktail list including drinks like Ducati Thief, ZZ Top and Dingaling Sling, the bartender will assess you and create the perfect concoction. Apparently I appeared jetset enough to qualify for the Aviation.Ham Grenades are the go-to if you need a little something to nibble on. The most delectable tater tots I’ve ever sunk my teeth into.
One thing to know going in: embrace any Hipster Surly attitude here as part of the charm. Accompanied as it is by infallible libations, the taxidermy adorning any spare space is all the charm you’ll need.
Forget what you thought about waffles. Chambar is taking this traditional standby and turning it on its delectable, Belgian edge. If you go to the Vancouver restaurant for brunch, you must try them — even if it’s only for an appetizer. Do NOT try to share them. They are small, and it will cause resentment.Wait! Wine and waffles? Not saying I wouldn’t do it, but in the interest of full disclosure, I was already a fan of Chambar. In fact, I recently celebrated my birthday downstairs at the table in front of this amazing king of the jungle, created especially for the restaurants’ owners by Seattle-based artist Justin Kane Elder, during a party (which just makes it even more fabulous). So when I realized Chambar also does brunch, I had to return during the early dining time zone.Which, thank goodness, does not preclude booze. Chambar’s local tomato twist on the Caesar is ineffable. Why? Not content to simply mix it with fresh, organic tomatoes, Chambar’s general manager Edwyn Kumar confided that the restaurant roasts them especially for the drink. Delish.As faithful Blue Besos readers know, I am anti food porn, when it comes to this blog, even though I regularly peruse it on others. But personal rules are made to be broken. Anyone with New Year’s resolutions feel me?
But I digress from the real quandary at hand: more waffles, or something else from the menu? If you manage to restrict yourself to just one waffle, which I do not recommend, you’ll have room for an entree. Be forewarned: you do not come to Chambar for traditional bacon and eggs. I got my meat on with the Fricasee, which revolved around braised short ribs and a side of maple glazed bacon, which is actually yummy thick pork belly.If you’re feeling more Benedictish, try the Gaufre Au Saumon, where (bonus!) the eggs come on more of those amazing waffles.Chambar provided so many details for my aesthetic obsession to delight in, thanks to co-owner Karri Schuermans, who did the interior design and is the driving force behind Chambar strategic ops. The Americano, served in this beautiful cup. The wood on the table, echoed by wood details on the walls. Even the restrooms were resplendent. Althugh I can only speak for the women’s.I didn’t take a picture of our exact eating coordinates, but it was a lovely corner table by the window. Green tufted leather seats. See the red round booth back there on the left, then the window next to it? And you can’t really make out the table beneath it? Yeah! Ask for that one.I finished the meal dreaming up more ways to eat the waffles. Shown in the top photo, I tried two toppings. The fig orange marmalade was lovely, but I was blown away by the bacon caramel. Chambar doesn’t do whip, but I’d like to try the yoghurt. And dark chocolate. Or milk chocolate lavender. Of course now I’m wondering how amazing white chocolate pistachio rosewater might taste… Guess I’ll be planning a return brunch.What’s that you say, Edwyn… another round before we leave? Don’t mind if I do. See you again soon, Chambar!
What do you get when you combine nuggets of financial wisdom with copious amounts of wine? “Adulting 101″ — Mogo’s marketing move aimed at Millenials. And what is Mogo, you ask? Canada’s top online lender. That’s MOney to GO.Sommelier Dave Stansfield, who jetted in from Vancouver just for the event, got the party started with a beer. In fact, every guest arriving at the National on Stephen Avenue in Calgary was invited to have a drink, to tide us over until the official tasting started — Dave’s famous Sunday School. Which was an indicator that we were in for a great night.Marci Hotsenpiller of Zinc PR and Branded Magazine’s Katie Tetz get ready to get their tasting on. I was impressed with the mason jars, a hipster take on spittoon, but no one used them. This wine was too good to spit.
In between swigs of white, rose and red, and sublime nibblies that I didn’t know National had, Mogo Financial Fitness Coach Chantel Chapman waxed negative on credit cards, forcing us (in a friendly way) to do the math on their evil interest rates.Meanwhile, Dave kept pouring from wine disguised in paper bags, while we sipped and tried to discern which was more expensive. In between his F-bombs (not kidding — Mr. Stansfield is the swearing-est sommelier you’ll ever meet) Dave also taught us about trends in tasting. FYI it’s no longer cool to talk about a wine’s “legs.” But mention minerality and chances are you’ll impress your server.
My faves? A pinot gris that tasted like gouda (think it was Nichol from Naramata) and Boom Boom! syrah from Walla Walla.
Thanks for the fiscal fitness, Chantal, and the worst hangover I’ve had in years, Dave. But considering it came from the most entertaining, enlightening wine tasting I’ve ever experienced, it was worth it! I’ll be checking out your Vancouver Urban Winery soon, Dave. Cuidado.
Gorg! Fab! Really a beaut. For some reason, Whitehall, the latest edition in Calgary’s foodie nation, makes me want to break out my best British bonhomie. Must be the reference to the road in London. Because this place really blows my hair back.Last night was the official opening of the new Bridgeland restaurant, which has been quietly serving happy customers for a few weeks now. Bumped into CTV’s Bob Sumner, as you do at these things.But Bob couldn’t distract me for long — there was food that needed to be eaten! My fave, the lamb kebobs, are not on the menu, but Chef Neil McCue tells me that they’re coming soon. To tide you over, the lamb bacon (totally delish) can be found on the Caesar salad.I was told the quotes behind the bar included bon mots from Sir Churchill. The wine was too distracting for me to verify this, so I just imagined my favorite Winston quote: “A polo handicap is a passport to the world.” Meanwhile, back to Chef Neil, the force behind Whitehall. Originally from Yorkshire, Canada is lucky to have him — two of his past restaurants in the UK have achieved a Michelin Star rating, so we’re expecting big things in Bridgeland. This isn’t his first rodeo in Calgary though. Formerly at Catch, he also may have trained a YYC celeb chef or two. Congratulations on your new digs, Chef Neil. I’ll be back!
My Minkoff and I checked out Pigeonhole this weekend. Just named Best New Restaurant in Canada for 2015 by Air Canada’s enRoute magazine, I had to give Justin Leboe’s new place a go. Conveniently located right next door to his other award-winning restaurant, Model Milk, his new eatery adds to his edible empire.
Verdict? Love it. Friendly door reception. Elegant decor — because ambience is always important. Amazing service from the waiter, who was quick to find me a wine by the glass that wasn’t on the list. Sharing plates I tried included a lamb tartare (generously portioned) and an unusual (and tasty) radicchio caesar salad. And I’m pretty sure it was celeb chef Justin himself who helped me with the door to the restroom hallway.
With its wine and snack bar mandate, Pigeonhole is a delicious late night stop after a show, although fyi, hungry friends, it opens at 4pm. Congrats on the award, Justin! You deserve it. PS – thanks for the matches.
When Kaiken comes to town, they don’t mess around. Like Madonna, the Argentine wine is currently touring Canada. Last night, the vintner laid out a long table of nibbles at Vine Arts in Calgary, to assist with the consumption of mucho vino tinto.But first, Aurelio Montes Jr had some ‘splaining to do. Because, as you may have noticed, his wine’s name doesn’t match his family moniker. Kaiken was inspired by the Caiquenes that soar over Patagonia between Argentina and Chile. Following the flight path of those wild geese, Aurelio’s padre, the Chilean-born Montes Sr, migrated to the Mendoza region himself to make vintages that combine Argentine passion with the Swiss-like work ethic of Chileans. Not that I’m encouraging sweeping stereotypes here.
Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon. Soft, easy sipping. “It’s a cooking wine,” said Aurelio. But for him, that’s not a derogatory description. Because it’s for cooking. Like, feeling good about what you’re doing at the stove, hot stuff.
Ultra Malbec. Another easy drinker, although a bit bigger. However, not as many tannins as you might expect from a Malbec.
Terroir Series Malbec. The middle Malbec, not available in Calgary, unforch, is the party Malbec, according to Aurelio. “This one is for your friends who like to drink a lot, but know their wines.”
Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Aurelio advised us to “smell the uncooked meat” with this one. Which, for an Argie who allocates two pounds of meat for every dinner guest over age 15 (who will each arrive armed with their own personal knife), is high praise. I don’t know if I smelled the early stages of asado, but it tasted lovely.
Reserve Malbec. Aurelio suggested pairing with salmon, or pork. “Not a big boy wine,” he said. But I think I’d be happy enlisting it to slosh down my Alberta beef-influenced carnivorous tendencies.
Aurelio’s talk of terroir turned into an impromptu geology lesson when he explained the boulders in his vineyards were left their by ancient rivers, not glaciers. Hint: you can tell because they’re round.
There was a lone wolf white, that started sweet but ended serious, apparently the ultimate escort to conger eel. However, after five reds, my tastebuds were committed to el rojo.Señor Montes handed out my favorite type of loot bags. And, just like any other rock star on tour, his Sharpie was ready to roll. Great grapes, Aurelio — muchas gracias!