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!
Calgary designer Kat Marks is a Jill of many trades, designing in leather, plastic, PVC and textiles, even custom moulded leather armour. She recently opened up her airy 1st Street studio so several of us lucky non-designers could try our hands at Lethrbar, a deluxe DIY experience.
Alberta actor Cody Sparshu might be cheating the shot (such a professional) but he’s not acting — he’s tapping his name into a leather luggage tag. He does all his own stunts. PR maven Katy Bond gives good background, diving in for some letter stamps of her own.
Look at this roundtable of influencers: Casey Wagar, aka Fancy Bro, on the far left. Actor/Producer Cody Sparshu, designer Kat Marks, fashion blogger Vincent “Binzento” Law and Katy Bond of Parker Bond PR. In the foreground, Mandy Balak, Founder of Branded Magazine, is totally focused on her art. The group looks well-behaved in the photo, but this stitch work station offered the bitch option. What else are you gonna do while sewing en masse?Vincent eschewed paint to go nude.But, claro, the Blue Besos tag had to be blue. Turns out when you layer Kat’s turquoise paint, you get a distressed denim look. Love it! Check out Kat’s website to book your own experience.
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!