The 2014 Calgary Stampede doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, but the parties have already started. The city is a-rustle with boots and spurs. Even Calgary’s finest are Stetson-ready to keep the cowboy peace during the world’s richest rodeo. Stay safe, but not too safe. Happy Stampede!
O, Canada! Where else would you want to spend Canada Day? The Calgary Polo Club celebrated our country’s birthday in style, with two polo games and tailgating to the max.The 20-goal game, Alegria vs Hawks, was a fast-paced match and thrilling to watch. Nice reach, Fred.But it was tough to concentrate on the game, with a record crowd partying in grand Canada Day style, along the edge of Palmer Field.Former event planner (and American!) Heather Lilly took Canadian color-coordination to a whole new level with her multi-tiered treats. Spectators competed in a foot mallet competition between games, discovering that hitting those balls can be a little tricky. Back to the real game. It’s always nice when there’s a throw-in right in front of your tailgate. But in this instance, may I suggest utilizing the zoom function?Luckily, the play moved away from the sidelines, and Mr. One was ok. Happy Canada Day!
When I bumped into fashion icon Jeanne Beker at Holt Renfrew last night, it made perfect sense: we were in the shoe department. The last time I’d seen her was in the makeup chair beside me at the Chum Building on Queen Street West in Toronto. Before the massive media amalgamation in Canada, all of Moses Znaimer’s stations were housed in the same super-cool building with the news truck sticking out of the side, three stories up. With shows for Fashion Television, Bravo, Much Music, CityTV, CP24 and more being produced in the same place, it made for some fun moments in the makeup room. Fast-forward several years and one Order of Canada later — the snowflake pin is always a sure sign. Besides being in Calgary to emcee the HR charity event, Jeanne tells me she has a “big, fat new project” up her sleeve.
“I’m chomping at the bit,” she says, using a metaphor from the Stampede-approved list of cowboy colloquialisms. “It’s been two years since the show was cancelled. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a new project.”
But beyond mysterious references to the digital nature of said project, Jeanne wouldn’t reveal any details. Hard to believe she resisted my tough questions couched in charming banter, but she’s a pro. She did talk fashion with me, though, assuring me it’s more than runways. She believes fashion is embodied by people, and it’s all about character. I agree, Jeanne. Love fashion, love life!The pre-Stampede party at Holts Calgary was a benefit for Calgary Health Trust, and the bold-faced names were out to lend their support, including luger Sam Edney, four-time Olympian.Country western singer Matt Masters was a natural choice for this hay bale photo op. His shirt’s a classic by Caravan, a Calgary company from the fifties and sixties. Yes, he does thrift shops. Although Matt tells me he lassos most of his cowboy gear when he’s on tour. His best finds are in Texas, natch, and in Mexico. He’ll be performing throughout Stampede, including CBC Radio’s morning show on Canada Day.The already impeccably attired Ryan Scott, left, and Gregg Scott, of Scott Lease and Land, told me they weren’t at the invite-only charity event to update their wardrobes — they were on the lookout for ladies. Seems like they go for the strong, silent types!A celebrity auction featured one-of-a-kind cowboy hats. I had to find the guys who made this Stampede stetson, made by Canadian jewellery designer Anzie Stein, look so good.Even with pressing business with Cher and Cyndi Lauper, the Style Guys, aka Jason Krell and Alykhan Velji, took time to bookend and say cheese, while I hoped my sweaty post-polo situation would be perceived as party glow. Thanks guys! And thanks to everyone who helped out Calgary Health Trust’s Best Beginning Program.
Looking for bold Stampede bling? Mosey over to Joydrop at Market Mall and lasso up some heavenly horseshoes. Not everything at the new boutique is rhinestone cowboy, but I cried a tear in my beer for this cuff by Rebel Designs.Business partners Shashi Behl (on the left — I didn’t let her put down her champagne before the photo) and Lila Lewandoski celebrate the opening of their second store at Market Mall in Calgary. Friends since their Saskatchewan days, the two gave their first location a try in Westhills in June 2012. Now they’ve broken through the mall ceiling, as one of the rare locally-owned independents in the shopping hood. They’re targeting the lower-priced yet designer accessory range, which no one seems to be doing yet in Alberta. Taking a cue from the success of others like Blue Ruby in Vancouver, they’ve Joydropped the concept and made it their own.Featuring collections by Alexis Bittar, Melinda Maria and Love Heals, Joydrop has room for more Canadian jewelers. Lila tells me she’d love to see some Calgarian bling displayed in the store. So YYC designers, get to it!
Online crowd funding may make it easer on indie filmmakers to get the cameras rolling, but nothing beats a good old fashioned fundraiser — especially if it takes place at the lovely (and fully functional after last year’s floodageddon) River Cafe.It turns out that Chronic Wasting Disease (the ‘mad cow’ of elk and deer) is a highly contagious brain-destroying disease that can jump to humans. Not cool. Scientist Darrel Rowledge, at the podium, explains that this could make AIDS look like a picnic. Like the film’s title, it’s No Accident. Domesticating wildlife through game farming has created a situation similar to influenza from chickens and SARS from palm civets.Brian Keating, world-renowned naturalist, took time out from his birthday to tell the untold story. The filmmakers hope to raise $1.7 million to produce An Inconvenient Truth meets Sicko documentary. I counted 4 polo players in attendance: Rob and Ruth Peters, Shannon Peters and Jessica Schneider. And myself. As someone who almost got run over by an elk taking my horse out of the pasture last week, I hope this fundraising mission succeeds. This is a film people need to see.
Taking the neighborhood between Le Chateau and RW&Co up a notch, WEEKEND Max Mara opened its doors this morning at Chinook Centre —just in time for the weekend.Vancouver has three of ‘em, but this is the first WEEKEND Max Mara in Calgary. Invited guests were treated to an informal fashion show to get a grip on the brand’s style MO.Bright colors and florals borrowed from the 80’s are cycling into resurgence.The black and white stripe story is back, just like it is every spring. But Max Mara, which makes its own fabrics and runs its own factories, gives it a high-end twist. In business journalism I believe they call that an industry vertical. But we don’t need to worry our pretty little heads about that…… especially when the stripes are horizontal.Catherine Guadagnuolo, founder of the Vestis Fashion Group which licensed the store in Western Canada, shows off a cashmere wrap coat. Coats are the core of the Max Mara brand and have been worn by multiple princesses, both real and of the tabloid variety. However, Kate Windsor and Kim Kardashian weren’t in attendance today.She also assured me that the parkas and scarves on display weren’t shipped in especially for Calgary’s psycho summer weather. Those stylish Italians just wear scarves all year long.No unique design details for Cowtown in the 1660 square foot space. In the interest of brand cohesiveness, all decor was brought in from Italy. Presumably, so were these super cool mannequins. This is only our first taste of Max Mara. Their luxury store is slated to open at Chinook in November of next year. Welcome to Calgary!
Spring has finally sprung in Calgary. With the green shoots and fresh new leaves comes another new restaurant, with a green Italian mascot parked faithfully outside.Green is the theme on the inside as well, as far as the server’s hip baseball tees go. They’re a casual contrast to the stylish, airy decor of the shoebox-shaped room with a deluge of daylight. Bocce has managed to create a comfortable vibe inside the newly constructed building on the corner of Fourth Street and 22nd Avenue SW. The Tiffany blue accent wall (which I love, of course) reminds me of a similar wall at Black Pig Bistro. Which is a good thing. Calgary could never have enough Tiffany blue. However, the horde of hungry food bloggers was focused on a tastier topic: the food. With three restaurants within 3 blocks of each other, Dominic Caracciolo is the Don of Fourth Street. The man behind Mercato takes his Italian food verrrry seriously. After trying several Bocce pastas (the one with the mushrooms was my favorite) and some amazing calamari, I appreciate his fierce foodiness, even if it means he’s so intent on delivering a meal he can’t meander for a brief photo op. His determination has created a delectable situation — I even heard one food blogger say she thinks the pizza here is better than Double Zero. Uh oh — them’s fighting words! Still, don’t go typecasting Dom as all Italian, all the time. The third restaurant in his Mission triple savory slam is Wurst — a German beer hall.If the permit gods are with them, Bocce will open to the public next week, with their delivery service up and running (or maybe driving in that green Fiat) by the end of June.
Every year in mid-March, the Rodeo Drive of the desert, El Paseo, holds a week-long salute to spring fashion. Haute fashion thrives in the heat of the Coachella Valley. But this being the greater Palm Springs area, which has always had a flair for entertainment, there’s more than couture going on under the big white tent. Don’t let the ladies with the white hair fool you.Palm Springs knows how to party! Which Dr. Deb Windham, wearing white, specializes in. The physician and artist is a renowned Coachella Valley personality.So is Karen Barone, half of the husband-and-wife artist duo Karen and Tony. The super cool horse sculpture behind her is one of their creations.As someone who spends a lot of time agonizing over my as-yet unpublished novel, I particularly liked that books were also part of the party. Fabulous Books, with its homage to Tinseltown allure, is a wonderful shop on the main drag in Palm Springs. After everyone got their cocktail on, it was time for the catwalk. The runway was rocking all week, but the Saks Fifth Avenue show, featuring top designers from McCartney to McQueen, is one of the highlights. Below are pics of some of my fave outfits for both women and men.I had one of the best seats in the house, right at the end of the runway.… with a pack of paparazzi behind me. Forgive the blurry action shot.Then it was on to the after-party at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert. There’s so much art in the desert, the museum needs an outpost just 12 miles away.Don’t tell the impeccably decked-out Francesco Santoro that I’ve been wearing the same outfit all week. The Beverly Hills handbag designer specializes in exotic skins like crocodile, ostrich and python. I tried to keep my threadbare Gucci out of sight.This party even gave a culture-boost to a break for the loo. I took the long way to the restroom so I could check out Red Sweater. Victor Rodriguez uses acrylic on canvas to show his daughter looking at a photo of Christy Turlington.Woman: can you believe how real she looks? Man: [wisely not saying anything].Joan by John Deandrea is beautiful and spooky at the same time.Ain’t no party like an El Paseo Fashion Week party! See you next year!
Bridgeland’s latest addition to the foodie world of Calgary is still papered up against prying eyes.But last night, if you were on the list, you were invited to a sneak peek at Black Pig Bistro, before the media launch next week and before the public opening. It felt very VIP, but it was actually more grassroots — and savvy marketing strategy. The soft launch was for local social media supporters.And who doesn’t support free food and wine?Circulating chef and co-owner Alison Bieber offered chicken liver pate in appetizer form, which will be served as a smear on the antipasti dish when the restaurant opens. I’m anti-smear, but pro-pate. Delicious.Love the random Tiffany blue wall in the middle of the subtle brown and white decor. Or Blue Besos blue. Take your pick!The other two-thirds of the co-owner triumverate, Denise and Larry Scammell. Larry tells me black pig is the tastiest of all pork.After all those conservative photos, I finally found the restaurant’s namesake, willing to ham it up for the camera. Black Pig Bistro opens to the public next Wednesday.
Hold the anchovies? Who says that? Not Double Zero.
The popular Stephens Avenue pizza joint created a new white anchovy crostini concoction to celebrate the opening of their brand spanking swanking new location, in the north end of Chinook Centre.Executive Chef Robert Jewell, slinging the pie in the sky here, sings the siren song of the white swimmers. “You don’t have to bring the sexy to anchovy, to me they’ve always been sexy. It’s one of my favorite things to snack on. We’re trying to open customers up to it.” He says they’re more subtle than sardines. If that doesn’t get you you, maybe the super-luxe price tag will: $45/kilo. Prepared the Double Zero way, the little fishies pair nicely with Prosecco.But let’s get to the real reason we’re here: the pizza. Plagiarizing directly from the 00 website, “Double Zero is named after the finest grade of flour on the planet.” Since I know flowers better than flours, I’ll just take them on their word.Wondering why this dude with the beard is lurking everywhere? He’s all over 00. The tables, the walls, even the advertising. We’ll get to that in a minute. In the meantime, check out the ‘za. Super affordable and super good……once it’s served it doesn’t stay on the plate for long. The one with the bacon was my personal fave.The media party was wisely contained to the downstairs bar/bistro area, but upstairs the restaurant was rocking! Even though it has only been open since Monday.Packed with beautiful people, can Double Zero sustain the Opening Week clientele standards once mall rats get wise to their fresh new dining option conveniently located right next door to Tori Burch? Although Chinook shoppers are pretty cute.Back downstairs I thought I’d tracked down The Dude. Not Jeff Lebowski, but the bearded bro in all the promo. Turns out it was a different beard, belonging to a different dude: Jon Molyneux of the uber-tasty Concorde Group. But he revealed the wine list cover model is Peter Feenstra of Tank Design, a Friend Of The Restaurant, like everyone featured in the arresting black and white wall murals. Feenstra also designed all the furniture in the restaurant.Thanks for the party, Double Zero! Not only did I learn beards are optional here, it turns out that 2 x 00 = feel good, taste good math.