This year, Brett’s soiree had a hashtag instead of a title: #OMGP, which officially stood for Oh My Garden Party, but Tweeters not in the know got into a social media lather over potential inspirations for the acronym . A favorite annual event amongst Calgary’s social set, the Mount Royal garden party happens rain or shine — under a massive, 40×80 foot tent that works for any weather. Stunt rider and provider of many an animal for the film industry, John Scott is pictured alongside the lovely Elaine Duncan of The Eagle 100.9 FM. Nice to see the man who taught Brad Pitt how to ride taking time out for a little R&R. Which could be a cool brand — on a horse, not an advertising campaign. Not for John’s horses though. His steeds in today’s Stampede parade were working, not relaxing.As is appropriate for the city currently hosting the richest rodeo on earth, #OMGP was chock full of cowboys. Brian Hanson, Vice President of Smithbilt Hats, attended with Makenzie Martinson, Seismic Technologist.Country crooner Corb Lund rounded out the cowboy lineup. Stalking the stage, David Gray of CBC’s The Eyeopener told me, “I’m a major Corb Lund fan!”When Brett Wilson talks, people listen. Especially when it’s about his charities of choice, supporting adolescent mental health. Guests were asked to pony up (cash or cheque at the door!) for CMHA Calgary, the Juno Foundation, the Calgary Counselling Centre and Wood’s Homes/Aboriginal Youth.In another section of the gargantuan garden, anyone who didn’t heed Brett’s speech over the speakers shushed instantly at the sound of realtor extraordinaire Gordon Ross’ whistle (old school, with classic finger-in-mouth technique). Seen here in the sharp blue blazer with partner Richard Cote (left).Quirky accents abounded…… including Don Cherry impersonator, Clark Robertson, with Chantelle Harris. Blurry photos courtesy of my memory-full iPhone 5.After raising four hundred thousand (and still counting) for deserving charities, revelers two-stepped into the wee hours. Oh My! Great Party!
Oh, Ben. Ann didn’t get the joke about taking over our mourning PC party, but I thought it was funny. Besides, we all know you’re too busy living in Ontario. But maybe that’s the reason why you didn’t don your cowboy hat — the one you helped create for charity? After all, the Holt Renfrew event was billed as a pre-Stampede party — ten gallons are de rigueur dress code in these here parts.You must not have gotten the memo on footwear either. But those loafers (I’ll go out on a limb and say Gucci) don’t fall far from your Prime Minister dad Brian’s tree. Although you brought your own brand of sexy by going sockless. And is that a tattoo I see peeping out from your pants?Luckily, winning bidder Judy Mastromonaco understood the hashtag “HoltsHatsOff” means wearing one first. The private shopping event included an auction for celeb-designed hats, with proceeds going to the Calgary Health Trust. Ms. M scooped up this chapeau by Laureen Harper. Because politics make for fabulous hat fellows. The cowboy hats were donated by the iconic Smithbilt Hat company. Because if their hats are good enough for Kate Middleton, they’re good enough for Holt Renfrew. Smithbilt partner Cam Clark, of polo playing and Ford fame, shows me plans for the sleek new headquarters in Inglewood.A fashion show on the pink carpet promoted fringe accents for this year’s Stampede.
Sporting his own fringe (“I trimmed it today,” he assured me later) philanthropist and former Dragon Brett Wilson chatted with Ben about his Garden Party next week, in support of The Calgary Foundation / Mental Health.
Meanwhile, Ben, since you’re cowboying it up in that promo photo, we’ll let you off the hook. You know I’m just joshing about the whole hat thing, right? It was wonderful that you took the time to come out to YYC. Besides, your hat sold for $500!The evening was a veritable who’s who of give give. Olympic luger Sam Edney and Olympic skier Brad Spence normally sport helmets instead of hats in their charitable endeavor, aka Helmets For Heroes.Purple-haired and neon-favoring painter Miss Anna Hall will be auctioning off an original artwork for the Brakemen Foundation during Stampede. The other half of the dynamically colored hair duo, Ilana Rohwedder, on the left, puts charity full-time in her life, working for Big Brothers and Sisters.
In the spirit of the Dalai Lama, I had to give the white hat – not to mention a Smithbilt selfie – a try. Photo bomb courtesy of Roc Spence, Director of the Calgary Stampede. It already looks like it’s going to be a wild ride! Yeehaw!
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!
But the real hole in one (or three) was scored by the refreshments. Grey Goose La Poire, Cherry Noire or L’Orange, mixed with citrus and fresh grown herbs. Very healthy. Communications expert Joshua Smith appreciated the extra nutritional value in the garnishes, since hors d’oeuvres trays were a rare sighting…… so is a horse with a fascinator. And yet.Between drinks I bumped into Lee Pettigrew of Metropolitan Grill fame and Brad McMeekin, CEO & President, Skyline Construction.Hashtagging and helium were encouraged.Apologies for not taking photos of the indoor pool (complete with synchronized swimmers) or the 8-car garage… I was too dazzled by the sunset. And the fresh rosemary in my cocktail. Thanks Grey Goose!
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!
After years without racing in the Calgary area, horses are back on the track. Century Downs Casino is so fresh the slots aren’t even sticky yet. And this weekend, it was opening day for the reason behind their existence (aka the help in securing their liquor license): the racetrack. Conveniently located beside Cross Iron Mills outlet mall. I fully supported the opening parade’s emphasis on horse style. In this case, it was zebra-striped everything — even girth straps.The fashion sense continued with the drivers. Standardbred silks just seem to have a certain Evel Knievel super-coolness.No scissors here. This is how ribbon-cutting rolls at the racetrack.I found most of the high-fashion hats inside at a private reception, where the peeps were not only VIP, they were smart, since it was ridiculously cold outside. Hazel Bennett of Borders Racing Stable wore a lovely feathered hat originally worn by her mother in the 1940s. Dr. David Chalack stuck with his ten-gallon, but what would you expect from the man who is not only the Chair of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, but a board member of the Canadian Dairy Network and past president of the Calgary Stampede?Sandra Rexilius paired her beautiful brown velvet chapeau with her actual riding jacket. Bien sur!While Premier Jim Prentice stuck to his lawyerly go-to duds, albeit weekend casual with the button down shirt sans tie, it looks like he might have picked up a little fashion advice — and a big belt buckle — from Max Gibb, vice-chairman of the United Horsemen of Alberta and Century Downs.Although he seemed to charm the harness drivers without cowboying up.Finally, the wait was over and the first official race at Century Downs began. The photo finish ended up being a few short feet between new guard and wise guard: 22-year-old Travis Cullen (ladies, he lives in Airdrie) and 60-year old Rod Hennessy.My fave outfit of the day could be winner Rod Hennessy’s lucky orange and blue silks, but my favorite expression is definitely that manure-eating grin on Waitin Ona River’s face. Congratulations, you two! For more on Opening Day, please check my article in the Calgary Herald.
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!
The Home+Garden Show 2015 starts on Thursday. Even though it will be at the grande BMO Centre, they chose the peqeuno quaint new bistro of two former food truckers for the media preview. I’ve been meaning to get to Marda Loop to check out the Farmer’s House, so for me it was a cocktail party two-fer!Inside, it wasn’t quite business as usual, with the stars of the upcoming Home+Garden Show blocking the counter. I’ll have to get back to the kitchen and general store for lunch, especially with this weirdly warm patio weather we’ve been having in Calgary.Meanwhile, look who I bumped into around the corner! Home Show poster girl and interior designer extraordinare, Heather Draper. The bedding guru will be a featured speaker this weekend at the show. Spoiler alert: she tells me she’s not into trends. She thinks people should be more confident with what they love. Yes! “I love that dress,” said Tiffany confidently. Black and white stripes are a staple that never gets old. Click here and you’ll see that Heather sticks with what she loves.Further in to the Farmer’s House (which is a charming maze of rooms in an actual house) it was blogger heaven. DIY stations so intense that conversation died down and drinks were ignored.Melissa Wagner of Interiors to Inspire espoused the awesomeness of chalk paint, especially for garden furniture.Terrariums are a hot home trend right now and Ryan Massel, otherwise known as Calgary’s super blogger Mr. Fabulous, was digging it.With all the fixings provided by Blue Grass Nursery, even I couldn’t resist. My fishbowl is up front. Try it yourself this weekend. They’re hosting miniature garden workshops all four days of the show.
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