When the folks from Invivo Wines sent me this happy little package recently, I thought:perfect to quench my post-polo thirst! After playing four chukkers for Team Blue Besos, despite my personal puddle of sweat and crazy helmet hair, water never seems to be my top choice for rehydration.Mellow, peachy, but not too sweet, Invivo’s Pinot Gris hails from New Zealand. Available at several Calgary restaurants and at Willow Park Wines, it recently rated 91 points (out of 100) with the Globe and Mail. Normally I’m a Sauv Blanc kind of girl, but this Pinot will do in a pinch. Invivo gets marks for invigoration.
When the Marriott decided to hold a battle royale, celebrating their curated bourbon flights at 250 of their finest hotels, it makes sense that Calgary would be their only Canadian stop. Because who in this country appreciates a good drink more than anyone from YYC?With four bartenders feeling the heat of battle, the lobby of the Calgary Marriott was on fire. Shelby Goodwin of The Derrick Gin Mill & Kitchen came out of the gate smokin’ hot. But Madeline MacDonald of Model Milk, Michael Sheppard of the Marriott’s One 18 Empire and Kevin McKee of Marriott Scottsdale all had mighty mixes to muddle. Being polite Canadianas, we pretended not to notice that Marriott had stacked the deck with two of their own bartenders.To show she wasn’t phased, Model Milk’s Madeline struck a serious pose in between her bar-side dance moves, while the clocked ticked away on a time limit of five minutes for each round.Boozy brown concoctions of drinkable art ensued.Michael Sheppard displayed deft dexterity, and, dare I say, unusual technique for the pour? Behind him, after claiming he loved hockey, Arizonian Kevin McKee devised what he hoped would be the drink of champions.While the American contestant’s affection for hockey may have been questioned, his fans could teach us a thing or two about supporting a team. Bourbon Battles boosters! Host Heather Greene, spirit expert and NY Times short-listed author, wondered if Kevin’s fans would buoy him to the top spot. Meanwhile, Jonny Knoxville doppelgänger aka Michael took it low. Then popped up all confidence to hustle the bus to the judges.The judges, which included James Addison, vice president of global operations for Marriott in the blue button down, Nathan Head, owner of Milk Tiger, and Terry Rock, self acclaimed Man About Town, were schmoozed as well as served.
The judges had a tough decision on their hands, but they managed to sip their way through it.Ultimately, it was Shelby Goodwin of the Derrick who took home the emblazoned bourbon barrel lid. Must have been his muy caliente technique for the old fashioned. He’ll battle again at the finale in New York on June 14, representing Calgary on National Bourbon Day. Congrats Shelby! Kick some bourbon butt in NYC!
It’s a big birthday across the pond today — the Queen of England is turning 90. She still rides her fave Fell pony, as seen in this pic from last year, and prefers silk scarves to helmets. Since most of us probably can’t make it to the 90-minute May celebration with 900 horses, what better way to celebrate lovely Liz than with a cookbook by a former royal chef?Cordon Bleu chef Carolyn Robb went straight from cookery school to cook it up at the Royal Household for thirteen years.
As you can probably guess, I hold a torch for her all her polo-playing charges. The fact they look so bummed after a loss in this photo makes me love them even more. So of course I want to see where they got their energy from during the Chef Robb days.Chef Robb advises how to cook food fit for a king in a totally down-to-earth manner, with a chapter devoted to organic food for children. Lovingly published by ACC Editions, The Royal Touch, is a collage of recipes, photos, watercolor illustrations and hand-written notes from happy royals with full tummies.
The ones from Princess Diana are especially poignant.
The book offers a bounty of recipes, from breakfast to dessert, with clear instructions and Carolyn’s personal take on each dish. Since I’ve been on a quinoa kick lately, I’ll be trying the Warm Salad of Halloumi next. With quinoa, roasted aubergine and lemon mint dressing. Mmmm. Even more delicious is a 50% discount for Blue Besos readers. Head to the ACC website to register, then enter promotional code RT50. Happy cooking!
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.