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.
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.
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