I was invited to an exclusive media sneak peek, before Thursday’s grand opening of Nordstrom Rack in Calgary. It’s only the second in Canada, and it’s the first one west of Toronto. Once again, YYC beats YVR in the Nordstrom department. Check it out in the latest edition of BBTV Update. Also included: Trevor Noah, Home To Win and Swizzlesticks news.
Chef Michael Noble has always been up new adventures. That was evident when he appeared on Iron Chef, when the show was still in Japanese, before any food channels existed. Now he’s bringing his decades of experience to a new venture. I spoke with him at the launch party for his catering business.
When I was invited to Hayden Block’s launch party for their second annual Whiskey Club, how could I refuse the charming southern combo of bourbon and barbecue? As a precaution, I did all interviews before the tasting began. The Club starts March 6th and there’s still room left. Watch the story for allll the drinking details.
Outshining chandeliers and lavishly decorated Christmas trees, this giant gingerbread house occupies major lobby frontage at the Fairmont Palliser, on display until January 2nd.It’s so big that it was modeled on a real live she-shed, belonging to the wife of Brian Graham, designer at the Calgary Drop In Centre woodshop, and brain behind the ginger build.
The life-sized house was built to inspire life-saving giving. Visitors are encouraged to bring monetary and non-perishable food item donations for the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre and Calgary Food Bank.
Wild Rose Brewery, Big Rock Brewery and Last Best Brewery have also partnered and will grant three wishes for three children from Ronald McDonald House Charities Southern & Central Alberta. And one of those kids has my favorite name.
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.
Food x Design was held in The Loft by Amanda Hamilton, an intimate space at the Guardian Towers in Victoria Park. Packed with design fans, savvy PR specialist Lara Rogers found a spot on the stairs.
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…”
Sally’s spicy quips kept the audience laughing, including Pizza Una and Ox’s bearded owner, Kelly Black.
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.”
Although Sarah Ward had a cautious outlook on design costs before the engineers weigh in (“We don’t know what it costs until we know what it costs,”) Sally disagreed.
“Once a client gives their wish list, I do have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to cost.”
Practical words from a woman in purple-accented platform shoes. Love it!
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.
Congratulations on your opening, William Evans! JR, I like your style.
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 Goodwinof 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!