Gorg! Fab! Really a beaut. For some reason, Whitehall, the latest edition in Calgary’s foodie nation, makes me want to break out my best British bonhomie. Must be the reference to the road in London. Because this place really blows my hair back.Last night was the official opening of the new Bridgeland restaurant, which has been quietly serving happy customers for a few weeks now. Bumped into CTV’s Bob Sumner, as you do at these things.But Bob couldn’t distract me for long — there was food that needed to be eaten! My fave, the lamb kebobs, are not on the menu, but Chef Neil McCue tells me that they’re coming soon. To tide you over, the lamb bacon (totally delish) can be found on the Caesar salad.I was told the quotes behind the bar included bon mots from Sir Churchill. The wine was too distracting for me to verify this, so I just imagined my favorite Winston quote: “A polo handicap is a passport to the world.” Meanwhile, back to Chef Neil, the force behind Whitehall. Originally from Yorkshire, Canada is lucky to have him — two of his past restaurants in the UK have achieved a Michelin Star rating, so we’re expecting big things in Bridgeland. This isn’t his first rodeo in Calgary though. Formerly at Catch, he also may have trained a YYC celeb chef or two. Congratulations on your new digs, Chef Neil. I’ll be back!
How do you launch a luxury shopping website? Obviously, you throw a party. For the Calgary-based Upside, it only made sense to have it in an upscale Mount Royal home — with some of the most beautiful walk-in closets you have ever seen.The Upside is Canada’s largest online luxury consignment retailer offering authenticated designer goods. Yes, that means they’re second-hand. It also means prices are in Canadian dollars. With no obscene shipping duties.Normally, buying used items online would make me nervous. But after getting the chance to see the merch myself, I can confidently say they are more pre-ignored than pre-loved. Dirt-free. Unscuffed. Some items still have their tags.I wasn’t the only one who was intrigued. The party was packed with power shoppers, like philanthropist and political campaign manager Cynthia Moore, who take their clothes seriously. With a capital ‘S.’Unforch for the male guests, the curated inventory – comprising 250 + designers – only caters to women. But the soiree offered a chance to peak inside an abode that may have been home to Leonardo DiCaprio when he was filming The Revenant in Alberta. I couldn’t quite confirm that, but the good news is that luxury realtor Gordon Ross will be happy to assist you in acquiring it for yourself — it’s for sale.Downstairs, in the living room, while watching Upside founder Lauryn Zhukrovsky on the mic, I got the distinct impression that partygoers were being encouraged to tweet about it. Meanwhile, like all good parties, everyone ended up in the kitchen.
Wishing you’d been there? There’s another chance to get up close and personal with the Upside’s high-end goodies with the Black Weekend Pop-Up Sale, November 27-28. A selection of retailers will be under one roof in the former Domicile space on 11th Avenue S.W. Meanwhile, you can shop til you drop online — 20% off everything tomorrow.
How much better can life get for Paul Hardy? Calgary’s internationally renowned fashion designer can now add museum curator to his list of couture accomplishments. I caught up with him last night at the VIP opening reception for his new exhibit, Kaleidoscopic Animalia, which opens at the Glenbow today. Through a feat of accidental iCamera magic, his head appears to almost float away from his dark-colored clothes, in a dramatic echo to brain beside him, culturally influenced by animals. Also available on a scarf in the gift shop — the kaleidoscopic brain, that is, not Paul’s head.Even though Paul was double-booked, expected at a party at his own studio (which tend to be fabulous) he took time out to give a Kaleidoscopic personal tour. The displays are a mashup of his original designs and artifacts he found languishing in Glenbow’s vaults. As the museum’s Artist In Residence this year, he had special access.You’ve got to see the exhibit in person to experience the true hustle of a Bay blanket bustle. Anyone who knows their Canadian history realizes those blankets weren’t originally a branding brainwave — they were all about the fur trade.My fave is “Homestretch,” which sent me off into a trippy polo fantasy. But Paul told me it was inspired by the Run for the Roses, aka the Kentucky Derby, in which the winning horse is draped in a blanket of roses. Besides being inspired by the mannequins, the exhibit reminded me of the opulent department store window displays that seem to be nearing extinction. Grouped around themes instead of strict museum sorting by date or place of origin, the creativity is easy to consume, yet complex in meaning. In Everything Isn’t Black and White, Paul delves into a time when the Haida created argillite art for Europeans, in reaction to a declining sea otter trade.
Pieoro Guidi’s purses have arrived in Calgary, with cocktails and canapés at Teatro’s private Opera Room. Because where else would you launch a collection of Italian handbags?In Louis Vuitton-meets-Little-Prince style, the Magic Circus collection offers Calgarians a whimsical take on handcrafted status bags.Melissa Grassi, of the Soundsaround family stores, first fell in love with Piero Guidi’s creations twenty years ago. Now she’s following her heart, bringing them to Canada. Vancouver and Calgary are the first to get their circus on. For those who prefer to skip the trapeze, she’s also offering the Lineabold collection — sleek leather and nylon Prada-esque understatement all around. Find them both at a pop-up shop at the Devenish Building on 17th Ave. Benvenuto to Calgary, Piero!
ECCO, the Danish footwear company, rolled out their tastefully understated grey carpet this week for their new store at Chinook Centre, featuring street wear styles so suave you’ll forget that they’re also… comfortable.Retail Division Manager Ron King prefers not to use that word. “Comfortable conveys the wrong image,” he says. Ie — these are not your grandma’s shoes. In from Toronto to help launch the store, he shows me the super-lightweight, super-soft leather that signals ECCO’s core craftsmanship.Watch out CTV Calgary. Bob Sumner is considering a new career in shoe modeling. And who thinks jumping up on new yak-leather benches is socially acceptable? But you can tell from the lack of raised eyebrows that it’s standard fashion blogger behavior — when one is amped up about ECCO’s just-launched Soft 7 leather high-tops. Light as a feather!
It’s here! After months of anticipation, Calgarians will no longer have to stalk West Elm online. The fourth Canadian bricks-and-mortar location has sprung up just off the 17th Ave shopping district — part of the recent revival of Mount Royal Village. Maybe this means the nearby bizarre public toilet that costs a quarter and is used by no one will soon be flushed from the hood. As usual, I digress.The urban-loft-warehouse style space opened in the Blue Besos preferred manner: with a party! Catering was provided by the delectable Nicole Gourmet. If you were lucky, your glass was topped up by the marvelous Marlene McCarthy, who is also marvelous on the Calgary polo field, the site of many other fantastic parties.Back to the shopping. The Brooklyn-based West Elm is a sister store to the Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn empire, so it is essentially all kinds of hip for your home. On the local front, it’s partnering with Calgary artists and craftspeople for unique in-store items. Welcome to the neighborhood, West Elm!
If there are yellow jerseys on the field at the Calgary Polo Club…… and people like Gael-Anne Hatch and Chad Oakes (producer of must-see TV shows Fargo and Hell On Wheels) in the VIP Lounge…… then it must be the 2015 Veuve Clicquot Calgary Polo Classic. This is where the bubbles meet the storied hardwood of the Ranch House bar.Leslie Echino, owner of Blink Restaurant, and Katy Bond of Parker Bond PR managed to look dewey fresh and delightful despite 30-degree heat.While Rob Peters, the man who started Peters & Co, Elaine Duncan and leather-vest wearing horse whisperer John Scott kept cool inside.Katrina Prokopy, the inspiration behind hubby Ross’ team KatSaw Farms (he named it for his wife and son Sawyer), knows this is no time for a Mona Lisa smile. Especially with a pair of Prada Baroques perched above. Go big or go home!Meanwhile, alpha male Ross Prokopy of GMP Securities proves that not only does he play an aggressive game of polo, he also makes a mean mimosa.Despite the talent in Club League, I celebrated a rare summer week of bruise-free legs. Veiled spectator-sporting Paula Marie took support staffing to a stylish new level.While Gordon Ross of Remax and Bernadette Geronazzo, who’s accustomed to being In The Public Eye, toasted the game…… that was still in progress, beyond the revelers at the Ranch House. Mitch Horne checks up for Land Rover, under Allison Rooney’s watchful eye.It was only fitting that Team Veuve, aka Northern Blizzard, took home the cup. John Rooney, CEO of Northern Blizzard Resources, hoists his bubbly, with long-time pro Joe Henderson in the background. Cheers!
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.
Another Stampede has come and gone in Calgary, in a blur of pre-parties, concerts at Fort Calgary and a midway victory that left me with a giant stuffed moose on my first try, thanks to a Whack-A-Mole hammer that reminded me of a polo mallet. It was a stretch, but allowed me to channel my inner winner, just like Team Blue Besos did for the second week in a row on Saturday. But looking back on Stampede 2015, two highlights stand out the most — one of which was, claro, a fashion moment.Met this miss from Texas in her custom-made Maida boots in the VIP tent at Sheryl Crow. Tear your eyes from the deluxe dirt in our alcohol-flowing cage beside the stage and feast your eyes on Cynthia Wood, who wins the Blue Besos Fave Stampede Outfit award, due to the details.From the saddlebag with the perfect rodeo trifecta of leather, fringe and rhinestones…
… down to the ostrich and calf boots that took nine months to make…… it was the heel-clicking positivity of her soles’ soulful message that spoke to me: lucky in love and lucky in business. Those gears in the right horseshoe are her company logo, Gimmal.But even if they’re straight off the shoe rack, any kind of boots will help you stomp your way through Stampede. On my right, LA producer Debbie Emery puts her best foot forward to blend in with the locals while shooting her new sports insider travel show, Sportstown USA.Of course, to get the right shot, you have to get up close and personal. Being right on the rail comes with a risk, as the cowboy to my left kindly warned me. If I kept gaping, mouth ajar, I’d probably swallow some mud.But I couldn’t help it — I was obsessed with the outriders. The lead man up front is tasked with steadying five amped-up horses and pointing them in the right direction before the race. Which is enough to inspire some slack-jaw, but wait — there’s more.When the horn blares and the stove man at the back has thrown the “stove” into the wagon (not kidding!!) he has to run out of the way before he gets run over…… then hop onto his steed while it’s all hopped up! Somehow, even with those stirrups swinging wildly, each outrider manages to settle in for a speedy lap around the track, making sure to stay within 150 yards of their wagon. It’s not only me who considers the outriders fascinating — each one in the Calgary Stampede comes with their own trading card.Sadly, the Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth has concluded for 2015, but we’ll be back to cheer the chucks next year!