Last night Chef Meets BC Grape bloomed in Calgary, transforming the staid scene of a Hyatt ballroom into a boozy bounty of bonhomie. BC wines have come a long way, baby, growing from just 17 grape wineries in 1990 to 278 today. Didja know the Okanagan Valley is warmer than Napa Valley, and gets two hours more sunlight per day during peak growing season? However, my mission was more flavonoid than factoid. Here’s my tasting report.First, I sipped one of my fave blushes, Hush by Dirty Laundry. Light and summery, with a name that only adds to the satisfaction. Yes, I’m a word nerd.
Next, I moseyed over to the Haywire table, where a jauntily-named sparkling wine caught my eye. Crisp, fresh, and definitely not sweet, The Bub was a delightful discovery — and destined to be my prosecco replacement this sumer.
Then it was time to see what the Calgary foodie crew had on offer. Deane House’s bison terrines were delish, with designer books in the background to add to the ambience. The suggested pairing was with another vintner’s red, but I took my terrine straight to my all-time favorite BC red. Burrowing Owl just keeps getting better and better in the rouge department. If you really want to be a burrowing baller, ask for the Athene. None of their higher end blend was on hand, unforch. But I managed to make do with multiple tastes of their Merlot, Cab Franc and Syrah. Yeah!Despite Duncan Ly’s departure for foreign pastures, Raw Bar brought their A-game to the event. Not only because of the automatic caviar qualification (Northern Divine lives up to its name), but also because their nori crusted steel head salmon bites were amaaaazing. See what I did there with all those As?Finally, an unexpected swoon over a Chardonnay. Until now, I’ve never found a BC chard that blows my hair back, despite my fangirlness over Okanagan wines in general. But Culmina is a new blend, by experienced experts. The Triggs (of Jackson-Triggs) consider this to be a culmination of their life’s work. It’s complex and lovely, and expensive (retails for about $55). To which I say, Cheers!
If you’ve been cooking three squares a day on the home front for the past few years, perhaps you haven’t noticed — Calgary has been caught up in a foodie revolution. A hot new eatery seems to open every month downtown, on 17th, in Inglewood or in other cool YYC hoods. And it’s not just culinary art that creates the experience — interior design is also a prime part of the food mood. So when I was invited to a panel discussion of four of Calgary’s busiest restaurant interior designers, moderated by Jennifer Hamilton of Avenue Magazine, I couldn’t resist.
On the left, Amanda Hamilton, who recently did the interior of Native Tongues, told us she’d loved restaurants ever since she was an Earl’s girl. Kate Allen, center, known for her work on Bridgette Bar, Model Milk and Anju, said, “At the start of a project, the designer should be mostly listening.”
Talk quickly turned to costs. For everyone who likes to blame the designer for going crazy with expensive details, Amanda said, “I think designers get a bad rap for blowing budgets.”
On the right, Sarah Ward (Nash, Proof, Cluck and Cleaver) credited Chef Michael Noble for changing her financial outlook on design. “Prior to working with him as designer, I didn’t realize the impact of how my design affected the bottom line. You have to be careful of applied costs down the road.”
Sally Healy (pictured below), the designer behind Our Daily Brett and the now-shuttered Borgo Trattoria and Capo, was quick to chime in: “It affects us too. Cuz if they go broke like some of my restaurants have…”
The boldest of the bunch, Sally’s the type of designer who can make you believe in a project from sheer force of personality. One of her top priorities when starting a new design? “You have to decide where the sex in the room is.”
“Once a client gives their wish list, I do have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to cost.”
Somehow, it’s not surprising that James Cox goes by the less formal JR. After all, the CEO of the ginormous gun range, The Shooting Edge, brought in the folks from Knott’s Berry Farm to design this kid-friendly fun-gun booth at his facility. Yet his passion for formal shooting wear inspired him to bring William Evans to Calgary, where I’m delighted to report JR was serving excellent wine at the opening party. He’s not an arms dealer on three continents for nothing. For the record, that shady deal in War Dogs? JR turned it down.William Evans is known for making the type of clothing required to go shooting with Prince Charles, and the tweeds needed for any high-level experience of country life. With two shops in England (London and Bisley), it seemed only natural to JR that a third should open in Alberta. Attached to his gun range.At the recent VIP Sneak Peek (or Sneak a Peek, if you’re partial to Stampede linguistics) the British Consul General to Calgary, Caroline Saunders, enthusiastically agreed. Why do Duck Dynasty when shooting with the Windsors is so much more stylish?Just inside the northeast entrance to the Calgary Farmers’ Market, happy hunters can find ties made of 100% English woven silk or wool and silk mix, featuring favorite prey, or loyal best friends.My favorite of the evening was this jacket by Spanish brand T.ba, known for its attention to the elegant equestrian social set.
Down the hall from the cocktails and canapés at William Evans, customers shopped for explosive Christmas gifts at The Shooting Edge…… and practiced retaliation against any Grinch attacks.But excellent soundproofing prevented any gunfire audio at the soiree. Meanwhile, Smithbilt’s lead hat designer Holly Allen was on hand to get our heads in the game. Her hats are available for purchase alongside all the high-quality hunting attire. I gave country sloane a try, while Holly spectated.
Last night the tunes were pumping through Una Takeaway for its opening party. Despite the DJ’s turntable in the kitchen, his beats reached all the way to the back, where a new, hidden bar will soon be the go-to for grown-up guzzling.In the front of the house, Una Takeaway offers many of the favorites found on the menu at Una Pizza + Wine, located next door on 17th Avenue. Delectables didn’t stay on display long. They were far too delicious.The takeaway territory is bright and cheerful, but Frenchie the gilt-framed terrier indicates a mood swing around the corner.Tucked into a tight space at the back is the intimate new Frenchie Wine Bar, where the fabulous gathered for sophisticated sipping, including……Janice Beaton, who knows how to cut a fine cheese. Delish!The bar boasts a curated wine list, charcuterie made in-house and just 15 seats. Which makes it easy to predict a full house for Frenchie Wine Bar. Merci pour votre hospitalite, Frenchie!
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!
The first ever Canadian International Fashion Film Festival debuts this summer, not in Montreal or Toronto, but Calgary. The glitzy, glam launch party at Township Kitchen+Bar offered a perfect view corridor to one of the forces behind the fest.It makes sense that artist, film lover and Calgary fashion icon Katrina Olson co-founded CANIFFF, for many reasons beyond her Moschino suit. With a rich, diverse arts community and many indie fashion designers here, Katrina tells me it’s time to put Calgarian and Canadian fashion film on a festival pedestal. She didn’t come out and say it, but she might be more partial to the former, since she’s a Calgarian born and raised.As the head of Nobles Management, a modeling agency, co-founder Antonija Klotz is also a perfect fit for a fashion film festival—a metaphorical Size 0.You don’t have to be fabulously dressed to enjoy a fashion film festival — but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Cue Evie Eshpeter’s entrance in a gorgeous Eliza J skirt from stage left. The director of Jelle Public Relations is helping spread the word about CANIFFF.Fashion film festivals are taking global style centers by storm. Paris has one. So does Berlin, New York and Milan. Just what is this hot new trend? Take off your Anna Wintour-esque black sunglasses and watch the trailer:
The festival runs July 22-23 at the Glenbow Museum, for a two-day showcase of all things luxurious, life-stylish and beautiful. Right up Blue Besos’ alley! And btw if Blue Besos actually had an alley, it would be in the Meatpacking District.
When you’re celebrating the addition two new planes to the private, friendly skies, why be subtle? “Cocktails and Jets” read the invitation, speaking the language of party destiny. Canapes could only be a bonus.
But it got better. President and COO James Elian invited me aboard a shiny new Embraer Legacy 450, the latest luxury addition to AirSprint’s aviation fleet. A full-fledged teenager, AirSprint just celebrated its 16th anniversary providing fractional jet ownership (don’t call it a timeshare) in Canada.Surrounded by tiger wood paneling and creamy leather, I immediately asked the most unoriginal question I could: “What’s the strangest request you’ve ever gotten from a client?”
James, obviously an old hand at interviews, told me a passenger once wanted their jet supplied with half a dozen chocolate chip cookies. Each with six chips.
The story sounded suspiciously ready for prime time, but I was distracted by my ability to stand in wedge heels — without my hair grazing the ceiling. That, said James, is because the cabin is 6 feet tall and 6’10” wide. With seats that stretch out for snoozing, as long as you don’t mind playing footsie with the person across from you.Meanwhile, this intrepid reporter moved on to more intense, investigative questions. Like… does the loo have a view?And is the sink better than the ones in most apartments? Yes and yes. Important things to consider if you’re taking the jet to Palm Beach, because, my polo friends, this plane can get you there, direct from Calgary. Or to the Bahamas. Or to Cancun. However, if you want to say aloha to Maui with the Legacy 450, you’ll need to gas up in Vancouver. Or Oakland.Outside the aircraft, the hangar was a hotbed for high style, exemplified by marketing connoisseur Britni Weston and Avenue cover girl and creative agency head Sharie Hunter.Jory Kinjo and co went to the mile-high limit to provide the soaring tunes.The party was also a launch pad for AirSprint’s new CJ3+, but a nearby Aston Martin received more lustful looks.
No need to worry about parking… … or legroom on the 450, either in the cabin or the cockpit. I couldn’t resist giving the 450 an imaginary test drive. This is your captain speaking: Congratulations on your new jets, AirSprint!
It’s coming! The second event of the Secret Sound Society — the sleek, secret club that parties in honor of the Calgary Folk Festival. They’ll fete again this Thursday, February 11th at 7:30 pm.
Need some incentive? Try cocktails by Jameson, crafted by Sugar Water Bar. Nibbles light enough not to mess with your buzz. And a command performance by an amazing Canadian band. Hint: they rocked the Twilight Stage at the Folk Fest back in 2013.
Last time, guests who stalked the SSS Insta and Twitter came appropriately dressed for the Día de Muertos-themed event, held in an Inglewood location revealed at the absolute last minute. Well… ok, two days before. Enough time to get your sequins and sombreros organized.
Where will Thursday’s party be? The photo above is a major clue. But if “what should I wear” is still an elephant in the room for you, don’t take your style tips from the sidewalk pachyderm. With Block Heater weekend almost upon us, go mad with plaid and toss on a toque. The dress code is as pure as maple syrup and the driven snow: Canadiana all the way. SSSee you there! Wait, not a member yet? Here’s the secret knock.
Who doesn’t love an airplant? The experts at Blue Grass Nursery know when you put one into a hanging terrarium, along with some strategically placed lava rocks, they’re impossible to resist.That’s probably why their table at the Calgary Home + Garden Show sneak peek was packed with enthusiastic DIY-ers. As one of the 650 vendors who’ll be packed into the BMO Centre next month, the folks from Blue Grass will be offering up instruction for anyone interested. Stop by the Corral to make your own. They’ll have moss, ferns, succulents and other goodies if you’re not feeling my minimalist design in the photo above.Meanwhile, over at the Amborella Floral Studio table, do-it-yourself took a decidedly Chardonnay turn, thanks to host Last Best Brewing & Distilling. Since I’d never been in their lovely 11th Avenue location, I was surprised by both the decor and the breadth of their drinks on offer. Delightful and delish.After finishing my floral crown, I was ready for a luau. Not really the chic flower girl look I was going for. The vintage mirror at Last Best added its own effect, just to take my selfie down a double notch.Reformation PR’s creative director Amanda Haines played it smart, getting the professional guidance of Amborella owner Misha White.Success!This event being all about design, of course there was no mere photo wall. A photo lounge inspired us all to remember: the Calgary Home + Garden Show will be here before you know it. February 25-28 at the BMO Centre. See you there!