Happy New Year! Blue Besos is starting the year with a travel blast. Future posts will feature dining out in Vancouver, a Seattle girls’ trip and snowboarding in Revelstoke, but first let’s partake in some tropical thunder. Maui is one of the most beautiful places on earth. If your vacation brain has enough juice to plan a few day trips in between those pineapple-soaked cocktail umbrellas, you’ll have the holiday of a lifetime. If you can drag yourself out of bed early enough (perhaps you’re a morning person and this isn’t an issue for you, but a deep love of sleep is my nemesis) a lava hike is a lovely way to start the day. Drive til the end of the road in South Maui. At La Perouse Bay, known for great snorkelling, there’s a lava field that stretches for miles, from the last eruption on Maui. Haleakala Volcano blew her top back in 1490, or 1790, depending on who you talk to. Walking through it is like taking a walk on the moon, except with gravity. Or maybe Saturn. The loose lava rocks on the path are potential ankle busters, so you have to keep an eye on your feet, which is a challenge, because at this time of year the whales are going crazy, jumping out of the water and in general just trying to distract you. Also, be on the lookout for the random goat that crossed my path.Jawz food truck is perfectly positioned for your lava-induced appetite just ten minutes up Makena Alanui Road. A dude from North Idaho, who’s been known to snowboard in Alberta when he’s not hanging loose, serves up fish and shrimp tacos. To be clear, he wasn’t hanging loose over the taco fixings. They weren’t the best tacos in the world, but with some BYO Coronas to wash ‘em down, they’re like a mirage come true.Conveniently located right across the road from the taco truck is my favorite beach on Maui. So far. A long, treed path separates Big Beach from the well-maintained free parking lot. It’s also one of the few beaches I’ve seen with lifeguards, who occasionally make ominous announcements via loudspeakers about the spinal injury potential of body surfing.Besides the super-soft sand and the snorkeling along the edges of this cove, the lovely thing about this beach is that it is in a state park, which means no hotels or condos along the shore. The only thing looming behind you is a cliff dotted with trees.But if the absence of beach bars makes you miss the party, there’s one in the cove next door! Accessible by scrambling over a narrow cliff path, Little Beach is a favorite with the clothing-optional crowd…… and the drum circle on Sundays.Back on Big Beach, which empties out quickly at the end of the day, the sun sets over Kaho’olawe, a truly uninhabited island.Next, stroll through the zen front entrance of the newest luxury hotel on the beachfront boardwalk, Maui Andaz, a short drive north in Wailea. Worth walking through just to appreciate the Miami-meets-onsen design aesthetic…… it’s even better if your final destination includes Chef Morimoto’s most recent restaurant in his current world takeover (watch out, Wolfgang). Set poolside between the hotel and the beach, Morimoto Andaz opened in Fall, 2013. Behind that locally sourced tuna and softshell crab rolls is a sake tasting. Oyshi.If the sake gives you a thirst for dramatically lit photo shoots, pause to ponder the infinity pool’s lava rock wall. And check back for mmmore of my favorite Mmmaui days.
Google tells me the exact coordinates for Whitefish, Montana are 48.4117° N, 114.3400° W, but this bistro rounded down to the nearest non-fractional number. As someone who only vaguely knows that I reside somewhere above the 49th parallel, this name seems specific enough.Venture inside and you’ll see that everyone else in town managed to find Latitude 48 just fine without the four decimal points. Packed on a Friday night, the smiling hostess still found room for our walk-in appetites. Compliment her on the decadent feather earrings she’s wearing and you’ll learn she designed them herself. Because her dad is into flyfishing. I love Whitefish!If you still have room for another drink after your excellent meal (I had tagliatelle with fire roasted chicken, wild mushrooms and truffle essence: extra-delectable due to the pasta made in-house) there’s a lounge option that means you don’t have to put your coat back on to get to. In fact, you can bring the rest of your wine. Just follow the red arrow… … down to the Red Room. We were lucky enough to catch Kelly West & Crew in the middle of a set. Packaged in a tough-looking tank top and crewcut, she has the most ethereal voice. She plays again on December 20th. If you’re in Whitefish, you have to go see her.
The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is full of photo opportunities. Including this spot on the second floor, giving you a wonderful view of the main lobby. If I wasn’t so obsessed about getting the right shot of this shirt from Forever 21 (with Victoria Secret’s leopard print peeking through) I’d probably take a sneak peek at that moose smiling on the wall downstairs.If you’re worried that I won’t survive the record-breaking frigid temperatures in a sequin mini skirt, fishnets and a see-through shirt, don’t. (Mom, I’m talking to you.) These Michael Kors boots come with detachable sheepskin. Very sensible for this weather.And with the Lodge’s valet keeping my car warm by a roaring fire, the temperature just isn’t an issue…… although after admiring the Christmas decorations for, oh, 30 seconds or so, I was ready to hustle inside to dinner. I’m told that -2 Fahrenheit (-19 Celsius) is unusual for Whitefish, but it couldn’t freeze the charm of the lights overhead, which are nothing compared to what they’ll be on December 13, when the cars clear out of Central Avenue for the annual Christmas Stroll and tree lighting ceremony.Inside Tupelo Grille, the art almost distracted me from my rumbling tummy. Call me a populist, but I love me some Blue Dog. I first discovered George Rodrigue’s cute canine in a Carmel, California gallery and have been hooked ever since. The Cajun connection (George is from Louisiana) makes sense at a restaurant known for its New Orleans cuisine.The room itself has nooks and crannies character, including a back booth you have to shimmy along the bench to get to the end. And oh — the food was fab. The shrimp and crawfish cakes were my fave delish dish of the night. And fyi, if you want skinny fries to be part of your steak frites experience, the waiter will make it happen.Finally, if you still have an ounce (have I ever mentioned how anti-metric I am?) of strength left after Day 1 on your Whitefish Winter Weekend that includes a multi-national road trip to get here, make a stop at the Ultimate Safeway. I wish they had a Safeway this deluxe in Calgary. Just a few blocks south of Montana’s vintage village on US 93, this gourmet haven is open 24/7. More importantly, it has a wonderful vino selection to stock that duo-temperature-zone wine cellar back in your room at the Lodge.
Next up: opening day at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
According to Frank Sinatra, whiskey is a gentleman’s drink. Frank was such a fan, his legacy guardians agreed to lend his namesake to a new offering from Jack Daniels.Tennessee’s best was on the tip of everyone’s tongues Tuesday night in Calgary, the city of choice for the Canadian debut of Sinatra Select. Thus the selected gentlemen swarming Teatro’s Opera Room. Many of them declined to refer to themselves that way, but at least they looked the part.Ryan Atkins, Alex Orlando and Scott Watson.Dan Wright of WAX and Kevin Gordon.Let’s get a side view of those super-cool specs, Dan!Mark Burkart of McKinley Burkart and Jay Cowles of Spriza.Norm Bogner of Spriza and Ryan Jennings of Jennings Wealth.In case you were wondering how to accessorize a black wedding band (sapphire with diamond) Norm prefers a Panerai timepiece. And you can never go wrong with a fistful of sour mash.Frank couldn’t make it in person, but the evening was not without crooning, thanks to V. Williams.I felt a little like ol’ Blue Eyes himself, getting hustled through the Teatro kitchen for an intimate lecture … … on the fine art of single barrel aging. Jack Daniels looked right at home in Teatro’s 10,000 bottle wine cellar.And despite the original 1911 Dominion bank vault looming behind me, I felt right at home. but I suppose 45% alcohol content accelerates that emotion. However, my Jack Daniel’s Country Club badge is 90-proof that I’ve arrived.
Last time I was at the Yellow Door Bistro at Hotel Arts, I took you on a power lunch with Lawrence Roeck, the filmmaker shooting the next Eastwood Western. This time my shadow does more than darken the front door — it darts into the kitchen to take you behind the scenes. But first, let’s get the deets on the interior design.The restaurant is particularly proud of its environmentally conscious decor through architectural salvage. Feel like this lounge needs more of your lizard? Settle into a couch below reclaimed wooden shutters from Belgium, circa 1800.Neigh-sayers are welcome. Equestrian whimsy is a recurring theme, like this giant horse lamp.A bunny waits for you to belly up to the bar and paw through the iPad wine list.Random yellow accents repeat in the furnishings and staff uniforms, but they aren’t overdone.Admittedly aesthetically-driven in my choice of restaurants, the food still has to be good, or what’s the point? In the kitchen I discovered Banff-born Sous Chef Quinn Staple working under the watchful eyes of the kitchen crew’s spirit animals. With the Yellow Door’s close proximity to the Saddle Dome, refurbished post-flood in time for the Flames’ full season, I suppose it makes sense there is also a spirit hockey goalie.The kitchen was built especially for Yellow Door, when the bistro opened in February to rave reviews of their flavorable fare. The hotel’s other restaurant, Raw Bar, has a completely separate kitchen.It must be easier when everyone at table of four orders the same six ounce Sous Vide Tenderloin, but kitchen creation is a delicate dance in close quarters.My Dungeness Crab Salad is up — my cue to return to my table. I forgot to ask for the dressing on the side, and I highly recommend you do the same. Scrumptious! Yellow Door Bistro is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
If you’re headed to the Calgary Home+Design Show this weekend, I recommend going to it before you paint your walls the wrong shade of grey. Because if you attend, like I did, while the unexpected blue and lavender tones are still drying on your walls, you’re sure to see the right shade of grey everywhere. Like here, on the main stage furnished by Urban Barn.And at the Western Living Lounge.Even on the super-cool distressed concrete floor.Plus I was a walking example of What Not To Wear to a convention center. But I tried not to worry about that — I was there for a party.Calgary’s best bloggers were invited to attend a pop-up dinner party to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the design show.Decorated by Revolve, my table was accented in blue. Blue Besos blue. With totally appropriate azul cocktails.The Casa Bubble display lurks in the background while YYC top chefs, Kyle Groves from Catch, Paul Rogalski from Rouge and Michael Dekker from SAIT cook under the watchful eye of Neil Stuart from Trail Appliances…… and the eyes of anyone walking by the cooking stage. With a camera overhead displaying their culinary moves on a giant flatscreen, it was a cooking show come to life.Of course, that also meant if you were part of the dinner, you were part of the demonstration.But the food was too good to let eating in a fishbowl sink my appetite. Especially when Chef Kyle Groves’ dish included an unexpected fish chip made from deep fried char skin. Cafe Rosso rounded out the night with a jolt of java. Cole tried to distract me from all the surrounding perfect grey tones by remembering I like my lattes extra-hot. He has a memory like an elephant, or should I say he has grey matter similar to a certain grey pachyderm? Meanwhile, the coffee and cooking were delicious. The Calgary Home+Design Show continues at the BMO Center through Sunday.
If you’re filming in Alberta, this town is big enough for the two of us.When Hollywood comes to Calgary, Hotel Arts is a natural choice for a meeting. But when it’s the team producing the next film in the Eastwood legacy of western epics, the art at this boutique hotel simply makes good horse sense. Seen here, Producer/Director Lawrence Roeck and Executive Producer Shana Wilson had just arrived from Longview……where they met with John Scott, Clint Eastwood’s wrangler from Unforgiven, among many other IMDB-worthy accomplishments too long to list here. But does that little Brad Pitt flick Legends of the Fall ring a bell?Let’s just say when Hell on Wheels needs saddles, John Scott has a loaner or three. Between rustling props from farms in the foothills to moseying through this art-laden lobby in the heart of Calgary…
… pre-production on the feature starring Clint Eastwood’s son Scott is keeping Lawrence busy. Meanwhile, at Hotel Art’s new Yellow Door Bistro, Ennio Morricone isn’t part of the DJ selects, but Lawrence does his best Good, Bad and Ugly anyway — under the watchful eye of yet another equestrian objet d’art.Maintaining LA standards, we paired Dungeness Crab Salad with St. Supery Sauv Blanc. Food not visible because we gobbled it all up. It was a very serious meeting. Which led to a very serious article on creative financing.
Afterwards, I went out front to collect my ride from the valet…… the bike, not the Bentley. And discovered another thirst-quenching service touch.Thanks, Hotel Arts! Diablo starts filming in Alberta early 2014. Dress, Diane von Furstenberg.
If an area ever needed a new brew pub, it’s this lonely corner in Victoria Park. Someone told me there was a recent move to rename the area Victoria Landing to obscure the neighborhood’s ghetto past, but I haven’t seen any evidence of this myself. But no matter what you call it, the people who work and live in this part of town don’t have many dining options.Inside, a soft launch lunch was jammed with customers, mildly frazzled service staff and good food. The former Olive’s has been stripped down from a high-end Italian restaurant to the rough-hewn Vagabond Brewery, offering more casual fare and beer, beer… and beer. Still, I managed to order a sauv blanc.I sampled the Kale Caesar Salad (yummy with ginormous homemade bacon bits) and a hearty Pulled Pork Pizza. Also: the Lobster Dog. Deep fried in beer and corn batter, it’s a classier version of the deep fried everything that will be available just across the street at the Stampede Grounds in July. Vagabond is perfectly positioned for noshing pre- and post-concert at the Saddledome.
Celebrating the birthday of one of my favorite people this weekend, I was delighted to discover what happens when chocolate and Louis Vuitton collide: This cake gives a whole new meaning to a la mode. A match made in my personal heaven, it’s from the talented bakers at Buttercream Bake Shoppe on 17th in Calgary. They do calorie-laden customer orders for wedding cakes, cupcakes – you name it. I’ll let you do the talking because my mouth is full. Tasted just as good as it looked.
If the pink ox on this 17th Avenue awning doesn’t mooove you to mosey into Ox and Angela, this should:“The spanish table” is a prix-fix menu of muy delicioso munchies. Instead of angsting over your choice, go with the chef’s selection of the tastiest tapas. It will add at least fifteen minutes to your sparkling witty conversation window. And if it happens to be a slightly dull date, the new plates of food that keep arriving should get you through. Meant to be shared, the dishes will give you a base line of common ground.Owned by the restaurateurs behind one of my other faves in Calgary, Una Pizza + Wine, I predict Ox and Angela will be my new go-to: I’m yoked! Tempting tempranillo and lovely service make it una noche maravillosa.