A trip to Vancouver isn’t complete without a trip to the public market at Granville Island. But there’s so much more to do there beyond stocking up on fresh produce! Plan your perfect day with this video, and enjoy!
Hawthorn Dining Room & Bar has finally arrived in Calgary. To accommodate the new restaurant, the Fairmont Palliser revamped the old Rimrock Dining Room and gutted the Oak Room. Locals had suffered without two stalwart YYC hotel staples for months. But the word stalwart has me thinking.
It was lovely to be included in the exclusive VIP media launch, but en route to the event, I was worried. It was years ago, but I’m still traumatized by the re-do of the Hotel Bel Air bar in LA, which lost its clubby library feel in a modern makeover, with an overly generous side of Wolfgang Puck. The grand dame of Calgary hotels is one of my favorite places in town — in fact, Blue Besos features a photo of yours truly at the Palliser, on the top right of the home page.
When arrived, I was immediately soothed by the prospect of finally being able to get a drink in the lobby. Before the arrival of Hawthorn you had to walk at least 20 steps further for a cocktail.
The lobby lounge leads to an intimate bar, already a hit for both diners and drinkers.
Comfy booths come with classic marble-topped tables. The gold art deco-style lights may be the teeniest bit phallic, but they come in handy for reading a menu — overall, the lighting in the space was a wee bit dim when I was there.
Epic ceilings give the new room that grand hotel feel. They were always there, but hidden by a false ceiling during the Rimrock days.
The old fireplace survived the renovation, and is now matched with gorgeous new chairs. You know this nook is going to be a favorite destination on Calgary’s copious chilly days.
Even the bathrooms make a massive statement with bold florals. I predict many a Saturday night selfie taken in the ladies’ loo.
Charlie Beil’s 1962 mural from the original restaurant is still here. With CBC’s David Gray in front of it. Hi David! But what about the food you ask?
Try the amazing Albacore Tuna to start. The orange slices make it extra summery and light. And you’ll have saved calories for…
… the skinniest frites in Calgary! A perfect pairing…
… with a steak served perfectly rare.
The desserts at Hawthorn are art forms. Tuck into a smooth, creamy Lemon Verbena Panna Cotta with sweet nut praline.
Who says you can’t have cake for breakfast? Not the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Mille Crepe dessert. And good to know: many of the menu items at Hawthorn ring in at less than usual high-end hotel prices.
Wondering what happened to the old Oak Room bar? It’s now an event room. I had some good times there, and I’ll miss those old polo photos, but the new Hawthorn, and its lack of TV screens, is much more my scene.
I do believe I’ve found my new Calgary go-to. Well done, Fairmont Palliser. Well done.
I’ll choose horses over hiking any day! Horses are the best way to get to Atotonilco Hotsprings, a mere 23 km from the surfing hotspot Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Join me for my ride and see the video of the hotsprings as well!
It might be “warm” in Calgary, now that we’ve finally broken into the single digits (still sub zero, mind you) but it just doesn’t really compare to Mexico. How about a little turtle action to cheer us all up? Helping save sea turtles from extinction will give anyone a boost.
Puerto Escondido is one of my favorite beach towns, because it manages to have a laid-back surfer vibe with amazing restaurants. Here are my top picks for foodie food and creative cocktails on the Oaxaca Coast in Mexico.
Whale watching in Puerto Escondido? Yes, you can do that here on the west coast of Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca. And I’m thrilled to say… I did! Watch the video to see the magnificant mammals I was thiissss close to.
When you live in Calgary, chances are you know a rancher. If you’re lucky, you’ll be invited out for a ride. I’m fortunate enough to be friends with Rachel Herbert, who raises grass fed cattle just south of Nanton, AB, for her poetically named premium beef business, Trail’s End Beef. So when she invited me out to ride savvy Suzy, we had some farm chores to do. And since it was hunting season, Rachel sported a safety-chic orange vest…… and so did I. I also wore a pair of chaps I hadn’t used in a decade, but my style was more Michelin Man than Wild West, thanks to the need to stay warm.On this particular day, we had a mission. These calves were weaned the week before, so now it was time to move them to the farm for the winter, where Rachel and Ty can keep an eye on them.Rachel’s hubby and quintessential cowboy Tyler mapped out our moves…… while Suzy and Jet always seemed to know exactly where to be to get the job done.Being in the saddle for hours was easy in this custom-made cutting saddle by Vic Bennett.First we moved the calves out of their pen, over the hills. My job was to stay in the back and encourage stragglers to get moo-ving. Then it was time to take this show on the road! Rachel spent years on the hunter-jumper circuit, but being a cowgirl is in her DNA — she’s a fourth-generation Alberta rancher. Those cows better get moving before Jet decides to give their butts a love bite.The grass on the side of the road was looking mighty delicious to the calves, so I had my herding work cut out for me… but I managed to snap one more photo while we were on the move. Way up ahead, on Turbo the roan, Tyler was ready to stop any cars that came along. Mission accomplished! But Suzy lingered a little longer, just to let those cows know who is boss.Rachel works the chute, and without that safety vest we finally get an opportunity to see her flawless cowgirl style, complete with vintage scarf. And those fringed chinks! Those are shorter chaps, for y’all who are not up on cowboy lingo. I didn’t know either.It was a novelty to be on a horse with such a lustrous mane, compared to the ponies I usually ride. Besides the cattle we also caught sight of a moose, loping across the ridge. Not pictured here, but emblazoned in my memory forever.Ride ’em cowgirls. Thanks so much for an amazing day, Rachel and Suzy!
Recently I was invited to the Canadian Rockies for a world premiere at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. It was too warm to break out my fur, but it’s never too toasty for a caliente selfie. In my own mind, anyhow.
The Banff Centre, where this modern frame to old glory (the mountain, not me!) stands, hosts many screenings of the film fest. Although I have to warn you, the restaurant immediately to the right of this shot, despite jaw-dropping views of the Rockies, served up the worst breakfast I’ve ever had. Cold eggs. Cold toast. It was so bad, it was beyond words. We just paid quietly. Because when the orange juice arrived at the table in a plastic bottle, I blamed myself. Apparently I had missed the cafeteria quotient in the description online for MacLab Bistro. But I digress! Want to hear about the film? And where we shacked up? First, the Banff Glam. Bio pic Drawing Home tells the unlikely-but-true love story between a Boston debutante (who was dating John D Rockefeller III, the most eligible bachelor in the world) and a young painter from Banff… aka Peter Whyte. Shot in the actual home of the Whytes (now a museum) and showcasing beautiful Rocky Mountain vistas, the film is a must-see for anyone planning to visit Banff National Park. Drawing Home is currently doing the film festival circuit, so we may have to wait a while before we can Netflix and chill with it.Meanwhile, major kudos to the main actors, seen at their post-screening Q&A on the right. They’re both locals, which just demands extra love for this film. Juan Riedinger grew up in Banff, and Julie Lynn Mortensen is from Calgary. Next, the Canadiana Hip. I invite you to peep behind Door Number 262, at Elk+Avenue, in the town center of Banff. On the corner of Banff Avenue and Elk Street, to be specific.You may remember the old International Hotel. Brewsters Travel Canada, the owners, have refurbished and rebranded the three-story hotel, raising the rooms to modern mountain level. The silver tree stump was an excellent home for Chinese Checkers, even if my camera didn’t like it. And yes, there may have been a birthday involved during this overnight getaway.In Room 262, literally on the corner of Elk and Banff Ave, the view of the mountains and the main drag coexist peacefully.Of course, the suite came complete with a bed. But the super-cool travel humidifier is our own. I highly recommend bringing one to Banff, where the air is crazy dry.
Elk + Avenue is just a few minutes’ walk from all the restaurants and shops in downtown Banff, and oozes Canadiana hip. Congrats on the new design! A perfect accompaniment for any trip involving Banff Glam.
When we booked a week in the West Village, with our flights scheduled to arrive on November 8th, I suspected we’d be in for an historic visit. But I don’t think anyone anticipated the seismic results of Election 2016. Even my usual See+Do is feeling the ripple effect. Still, I was lucky enough to experience many wonderful places. Please read on.
My Guide to Dining & Drinking in the West Village and beyond… while trying to put a happy face on political sadness.
On Election Night, the Empire State Building blazed red, white and blue. In the West Village, Highlands Gastropub was festooned with a giant American flag outside, and raucous Hillary supporters inside. At regular intervals they traded television pundits’ audio for entertaining anti-Trump rants. When they played Robert De Niro’s, the Dems were looking good. I had to raise my glass. Which, by the way, was filled with the perfect martini. Cucumber to muddle? Botanist gin? No problem. I love it when my drink requests are do-able. Calgary, I’m looking at you.Of course, we all know what happened next…… a dark day in America. When we stopped by Highlands again later in the week (because it’s that good), the bartender remembered my drink. And confided that he had closed the bar on November 8th to grown men crying.At Toby’s Estate Coffee Shop on Charles Street, the day after the popular vote did not elect the president, I thanked the barista for the heart atop of his perfectly brewed cappuccino. He said, “We all needed some extra love right now.” Yes.So I’m going back to what I usually do on Blue Besos: tell you about the things I love. Starting with this little coffee spot. Of all the java joints in the West Village, Toby’s was the place we kept coming back to. Get there before 10 am if you want a croissant, because they go fast.
If you’re in the mood for a full meal, however, Buvette is one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. Waffles with gorgonzola, bacon and syrup, anyone? The space is extremely tight and extremely charming. Half a dozen people did a server ballet behind the counter, without ever bumping into each other. This serious fellow in the beard would quietly call for service when the meals were ready, and waiters appeared to take cappuccino-machine-steamed eggs away. After this magnificent mocha, I forgot to take photos of the food. Je sues désolé.With all the walking we did, we worked up the need for sustenance again just a few hours later. Jeffrey’s Grocery was there, ready with rose and fresh oysters.We didn’t go to Dominique Bistro, which I regret. Because… look at it!However, we did try some of the most unusual soy and black garlic deviled eggs at Bar Sardine, on one of the best corners for people watching in the West Village. That is an unqualified statement, of course, but you do have a corner view from the bar. That will pass any fact check.This photo was taken at Rosemary’s (after the pre-dinner drink at Highlands) when I thought the waitress was joking when she said who was winning. Anyhow. We loved this place, even though their burrata dish has no tomatoes. Their rooftop garden provides the fresh seasonings that make everything incredibly delicious. We also stopped in to a place I’ve been many times. Balthazar is a fantastic respite in the middle of a Soho shopping spree, and their steak tartare never disappoints. The tower of frites was a constant theme, everywhere we dined. So were protests, like this one, outside of Jeffrey’s Grocery.And this one, on Fifth Avenue. With its unfortunate address next door to Trump Tower, there would be no shopping at Tiffany’s today. However, it did inspire us to duck into the Peninsula Hotel at 55th Street, to recalibrate our retail strategy. The rooftop terrace (not pictured) offers $23 drinks, mediocre service and excellent views of Trump Tower. As the day dialed into evening, we could see the protests continuing on Fifth, under the super moon, with outdoor heaters keeping us warm. Disappointed with the Plaza’s Rose Room attempt to make up for the banished Oak Bar, I definitely recommend stopping by the Peninsula’s Salon de Ning instead.Back downtown, we took a breather from politics, and tried to walk off a few calories on the raised railway track, converted into a walkable garden, that flows above Chelsea. Here’s my Highline Selfie. Because when they go low, we go high!