Behind Calgary’s National on Tenth is the cleanest, most Louboutin-friendly back alley you’ll ever see. It’s also where you’ll find the new back door to the Bourbon Room. “Barchitect” Stephen Phipps built the in-the-know entree (but no secret knock required) for those who don’t want to mingle with the masses lining up for the National, on the other side of the building. In the world of Cocktail Lounge v. Beerhall, segregation is a good thing. Inside, an intimate bar tended by bearded and plaided bartenders awaits your sophisticated swilling presence.The rest of the room, which seats only 52, is too sexy to show without a blur…… which is how it might look anyhow, after a few of these. The Bees Knees, crafted from gin, lemon and lavender honey is my new favorite cocktail, speaking as someone who is not on the bitters bandwagon.Besides the vintage martini glasses, the anachronistic vibe continues, with the Wild Rose Soul Club spinning their 45s under Soul Train.Delicious nibbles from their new menu round out a boozy night. Try to resist the Crispy Pork Belly. Mmmm. I’ll be back to the new back alley entrance, Bourbon Room!
Have you ever walked into a show home kitchen and fantasized about using the fantastic new appliances? Perhaps at this Albi Home, in Artesia at Heritage Point? Recently, Artesia invited Chef Paul Rogalski to do just that. But being co-owner of the world-renowned Rouge Restaurant, he took it up a notch…… turning a cooking demo into a kitchen party.I’ve seen a few ginormous island kitchen islands recently, and it always makes me wonder how you wipe the crumbs off (with a Swiffer?) but Chef Paul knew exactly what to do with the space.
In between showcasing cooking techniques for Roasted Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup, Duck A L’Orange and Tangled Beef Flank in Sherry Vinaigrette…Chef Paul dished on how to slice and dice an onion to achieve the perfect Big Mac garnish. Surprisingly it involved tossing almost half away. And yes, this award-winning chef and master of modern French cooking referenced McDonalds. Someone give this guy a reality show — quick!
Between courses, guests spilled out of the kitchen, into the super-wide entrance hallway. Tanya Puka of Anstice Communications flashes her pearly whites at the camera. On her right, Carolina Oxtoby, President and CEO of Heritage Pointe Properties and Heritage Point Golf Club. And in the glasses, Brad McMeekin, President of Skyline Construction. All well-versed in the art of being an Alberta houseguest: shoes off!A belle who busted her way through the doors of the developer boys’ club, Carolina is the woman who helped to make this luxurious neighborhood happen. Years before Calgary’s bedroom communities had sprawled anywhere near southern city limits, Carolina was trudging through fields and knocking on farmer’s doors. By 1989 she’d helped to amass 1000 acres for the Heritage Pointe community and matching golf course in De Winton — south of the “deep south,” as they like to say round these here parts. Artesia at Heritage Pointe followed.
While Chef Paul continued to slave over a hot, never-touched-before stove, Carolina told me how sustainability was a priority for her, especially water management. Heritage Pointe Properties uses grey water to maintain the landscaping.Sustainability continued indoors, with party guests thriving on champagne and Chef Paul’s delicious eats. What a great night!
It might have felt like winter last night in Calgary, with a snowstorm reminding us just exactly how far north we live, but inside Earls Tin Palace, it felt like spring. The restaurant is spiffing up their menu for the green season, starting with craft cocktails. The Paloma, which involved tequila, grapefruit and a whole lot of deliciousness, was my favorite. If you happen to be a quiet talker, you won’t be after one of these.The room was crammed with paparazzi, including Reid Fiest, Global National’s Alberta Correspondent and Buzz Bishop, midday host on XL103. In the background I managed to catch Tim Tamashiro with his eyes closed (sorry about that Tim!) but it made me wonder what brilliance is taking place in the blink of an eye. A new riff for his upcoming jazz album to be recorded in Vancouver? Another dazzling story for Tonic, his show on CBC Radio 2? I will tune in to find out.
The Tin Palace on 4th Street SW is the hippest Earls in Calgary, the beautiful outcome of a horrible experience: the Floods of 2013. It makes some of the other locations seem shabby in comparison. Earls, I understand you’re busy with your 7000 employees and 63 restaurants — with two more opening up in the US this fall — but when can you start a similar ambience upgrade in the burbs of Cowtown? I was going to vote for Westhills to be first, but I have now learned that they are a privately owned franchise. So I will just offer this direct missive to them: hint, hint.
Back to the matter at hand — the tasting of the spring menu. Head Chef Keith Kozlowski, who likes to keep his thermometer ready for instant action, had his kitchen crew so fine-tuned that he was available for a photo op. Do you tell a chef to say cheese?
We started with the Fattoush Salad, which tasted like spring on a plate. Chef Keith told me he ate it every day for a week when they first started making it — and he still isn’t tired of it. The Fattoush will now be my salad go-to. The accompanying Famille Perrin La Vielle Firme Rose wasn’t bad either.
We were told these were half portions, but they were plenty satisfying. Pictured with the most amazing Pinot ever (Belle Glos Meiomi) are plates of Moroccan Salmon. Delicious, fresh, with an unexpected tang.
The waiters at Earls normally offer the stir service, but foodie Lisa Nguyen of the Lemon Lime Lisa blog knew how to muscle her mix of Bibimbap, especially under the encouraging eye of journalist David Gray, who always has his eye out for a good story. After all, he’s the host of The Eyeopener on CBC.
Such a wonderful time was had by all that everyone even put their phones away — except for Goodwill Carlos of Kool 101.5. But he’s a proud new baby daddy, so we understand. Great to see you everyone! And thank you Earls for the spring fling, it was delicious!
Cleaver is cutting its way into my heart. I’ve been here a few times now. Both times the service has been excellent. So has the food, btw, but if you follow my Savor reviews, you know I’m all about The Entire Package, which means ambience and attitude have equal weight with what’s on the plate.
The evening starts with the bubbly hostess from New Brunswick, who offers bubbly if you have to wait for your table, which is likely with the crowds here. More restos should do this — such a simple, alcohol-infused way to keep patrons positive. Once I was seated, I enjoyed my Yorkshire pud and seared tuna so much that I was inclined to forgive the dark decor going a teeny bit too hard on the cleaver theme. Knives everywhere. Except your heart, which only feels warm and fuzzy after an evening here.
Looking for a libation? Try the Monk and Mexican. Tequila, cucumber, ginger and bitters. Served in a copper cup, it keeps deliciously cool. Although you can’t tell when you’re getting low. Better play it safe and order your second after a few sips.
Bikers looking for beer, burgers and big screens on 17th Avenue may be a little sad this summer. Melrose is gone. In its place, the new Corbeaux offers its own trifecta of bakery, bistro and bar. Read More
Different worlds collide and co-exist in Sayulita. This serene señora comes down from the hills every day to sell her handmade jewelry. I went crazy for her natural pearl necklaces (or bracelets or belts — however you want to wear them). She also made the traditional dress she’s wearing. Read More
After a year of planning and careful restoration at the historic National hotel in Inglewood, The Nash is finally here ~ Chef Michael Noble’s new restaurant and bar. Read More
Tucked away on 10a, a side street off the main drag in Kensington (that would be Kensington Road), is a new take on the slabs of beef we’re so fond of stuffing ourselves with in Calgary. In possibly the softest launch ever held, Modern Steak’s media showcase on Monday night took place a month after its official opening. But working out the kinks meant the soiree was a smooth, well-oiled machine of excellent service, libations and food. Read More
Calgary’s downpour last Friday made the normally buzzing Stephen Avenue a desolate place. Perfect for the opening night of Venus in Fur, presented by Alberta Theatre Projects!From the nosebleed section on the Martha Cohen Theatre, aka Tier 2, I had a wonderful view of the stage. Even the cheap seats are fab in this room.… although the leg room is a little tight. But I forgot about my knees jammed up against the railing as soon as the lights went down. Plus you’re allowed to drink during the performance. Although alcohol wasn’t required to make things interesting — I was riveted. Promoted by a saucy photo of a woman in thigh-high boots held up by garters, you expect this provocative play to be purely about pleasure and punishment. But it ends up being much more complex and intriguing, and will get you talking about a multiple of social issues beyond sex, to gender politics. The cadence of theatrical delivery makes it easy to watch. Just when it starts to get really serious, there’s a comic break that cuts the tension. Actors Tim Campbell and Amanda Lisman accept a champagne toast after the premiere, with Artistic Director Vanessa Porteous behind them. Apologies, Amanda , for catching you on the way to a blink and obscuring your baby blues. Not only is she beautiful, her performance, switching between wildly different characters, was thrilling. Go see this play!Afterwards, we stopped in to the new-ish Chicago Chophouse, next door to the theater complex, across from the skating rink (which, I’m pleased to say, despite our snowstorm last week, is still in liquid form). They didn’t balk at our 10:30 pm arrival, and we proceeded to have a fantastic meal. A surprising Caesar salad — the lettuce seemed more bibb than romaine — was light and lovely, with strips of The Best Bacon I’ve Ever Had alongside. Filet mignon was served a perfect medium rare.
Even though it was Friday night, the place was kind of empty. Although I think the cavernous heritage room in the Burns Building (no relation, unfortunately) would be hard to energize even if the restaurant was jammed. I humbly suggest filling the empty white walls with murals, Ayn Rand style. Chicago Chophouse has a cool Art Deco thing going on, but it’s not quite there. Although the decor was the perfect backdrop for our formal black attire.
When the weather in Calgary turns to snow, like it has here for the last ridiculous three days, do your thoughts turn to interior design? If you’re anything like me, they probably just turn to interior calorie intake. But now you can combine both desires, in one decadent giveaway bundle.The Calgary Home+Design Show is next week, September 18 – 21, 2014. To whet your whistle, the good folks at the show are combining forces with Blue Besos to give away a fabulous bundle featuring goodies like spice tins and cooking classes from Ruby’s Kitchen, IKEA gift cards, mini chalk paint cans from Interiors to Inspire and tickets to the show and more…… like these artisanal marshmallows from Fiasco Gelato. That’s artisanal marshmallows. Just making sure you’re paying attention.
Wanna win? Email me: tiffany [at] bluebesos [dot] com. Y’all know I’m writing it that way to deflect those dastardly spammers, right? Tell me your fave Blue Besos post. Whoever wins the race to the inbox wins the bundle!