I’m loving the look of the new Central Library under construction in Calgary. Scheduled to open this November, it’s on time… and under budget! How many city developments around the world can say that?!
Tucked into the old Target location, across from the Starbucks on the ground floor, and beside the Orange Julius upstairs, is the new Saks Fifth Avenue, scheduled to open at Chinook Centre in Calgary next Thursday.
First of all, who knew Orange Julius was still even a thing? Glad we’re taking it up a notch at the mall that regularly ranks in the top ten busiest shopping destinations in North America. Soon, who knows… I may even get a phone that takes better photos.
But, as usual, I digress. Saks is coming! It’s only the third location in Canada. The other two are in Toronto. Don’t be confused by the Saks Off Fifth locations dotting our nation. This is gloat-worthy. Because once again, we are landing a major retailer before Vancouver. (Cough, Nordstrom, cough). And the New York-based department store (if the Fifth Ave in the name didn’t give it away) is in the Holts zone of haut shopping heaven.
Saks doesn’t care about the price of oil. In fact, they just revamped their Houston location. Saks is planning to love our lust for luxury longtime.
In this frigid February, we could use the boost. Who needs high-tech when you have good ol’ fashioned shopping therapy? Sorry Amazon. (Just like the Eskimos and their words for snow, we Canadians have a thousand different meanings for the word “sorry.” And some of them are passive aggressive. Albeit polite… on that icy cold surface.)
Plus, there’s an opening gala. Super-exclusive VIP and all that. See you there!
Strolling Stephen Avenue, when a flash of pink neon catches your eye? Don’t pass by.Instead, step inside The Wednesday Room, one of Calgary’s newest spots to dine and lounge. Fittingly, I visited on a Wednesday, only to discover a slightly secret mid-week all-day happy hour. Wine, cocktails and food discount delight. Breaking Blue Besos news: the word is now out.
Of course, in a place with a typewriter theme, words abound…… including a particular proverb that was fairly neutral until Jack Nicholson’s penchant for it in The Shining made the phrase sinister enough to drive you to drink. First stop, the darling blue divans alongside the bar, where a pair of cocktails called my name. The Rose Colored Glasses (front) is sweet tooth’s dream come true, however, it is the one I chose to eschew.
It was the Up In Smoke that really spoke to me. That mezcal had a message.And that message urged me to get some food in my belly, before the words became too blurry. The Wednesday Room has an extensive food menu, based on share plates, and two dining rooms, each with their own personality. The one downstairs may feel familiar, if you’ve ever happened upon a basement lounge frozen in fabulous time.Just to be safe, there’s another bar down here too…… stocked with every libation you can imagine.But on to the food! Armed with my usual appetite, I ate too much to show it all in this post. But my favorites included the Ribeye Carpaccio, whose chili relish offered a special sweet zing.A word of warning if you order the Pounded Prawns — the shape they arrive in defy expectations. But thankfully, not tastebuds. Delish.As if that romp-worthy rug wasn’t enough, service comes with an extra flair at the Room. When Summer expressed concern that we weren’t eating the last Crunchy Rice Cake (are you kidding?? we wouldn’t spurn that final bite of tuna tartare — we were just taking a break) I caught sight of the poetry on her forearm. Summer was kind enough to translate the Arabic. “I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” Yes, Sarah Williams, yes.
Sated on words and wonderful food, somehow we still managed to have room for dessert. The Churro came with dulce de leche ice cream and a side of cardamom hot chocolate. My hot date captured me diving into a delicious mess of dark chocolate mousse, brownie chunks, charred raspberry coulis and sponge toffee. Thanks for the photo, Maggie!After dining downstairs, pause for a moment upon your departure, and look up for the stars you love so fondly. You may be gifted with a vision of the Calgary Tower, in an unpredictable place.
Outshining chandeliers and lavishly decorated Christmas trees, this giant gingerbread house occupies major lobby frontage at the Fairmont Palliser, on display until January 2nd.It’s so big that it was modeled on a real live she-shed, belonging to the wife of Brian Graham, designer at the Calgary Drop In Centre woodshop, and brain behind the ginger build.
The life-sized house was built to inspire life-saving giving. Visitors are encouraged to bring monetary and non-perishable food item donations for the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre and Calgary Food Bank.
Wild Rose Brewery, Big Rock Brewery and Last Best Brewery have also partnered and will grant three wishes for three children from Ronald McDonald House Charities Southern & Central Alberta. And one of those kids has my favorite name.
After several delays courtesy of our beloved city permitting department, Two Penny Chinese is finally gracing the up-and-coming First Street foodie zone with its red door…… followed by a rounder door inside. When I attended the media launch earlier this month, the new restaurant by Thank You Hospitality Management (of Native Tongues and Calcutta Cricket Club fame) was already attracting customers, without any advertising. Just an hour after I took this shot, every table was full.I love me a good restaurant bar, and Two Penny’s gorgeous marble expanse didn’t disappoint. Neither did the cocktail that got the party started. A Pisco Disco, if you must know. Which is a gorgeous blend of pisco, tequila, rose liqueur, lemon and rhubarb bitters, for those not in the know. Including me, until I took the first sip.Now for the food porn section! I’ve whittled my massive collection of photos from this menu-encompassing meal (we tried everything except the Stir Fried Whole Lobster) down to three. Seen here, the dumplings were divine. Just be careful biting into them… all that lovely liquid inside is ready to spill.Order the Special Fried Rice and you will find a marrow-filled bone comes with it.The Roast Half Duck came with milk buns and hoisin dipping sauce. At this point, I was too stuffed to do anything except admire the Lazy Susan. Which, after much googling from different devices around the table, we realized was not invented in Asia. Although it’s not totally clear if Thomas Jefferson or the Brits should get the cred, Chinese restaurants obviously own it. Making it even easier to overeat.But wait, that’s not all. Two Penny Chinese comes with its own bar. Take the stairs down to the TeaHouse.You don’t need to wait until after dinner to find the eye of the tiger in the TeaHouse. The basement bar comes with its own munchies menu.In the interest of due diligence, I decided to bookend the beaujolais at dinner with another cocktail. The Forty Six & 2 was like nothing I’d ever tasted before. The concoction of mezcal, tequila, rosé, coffee and sichuan pepper had everything to do with it. Original delish.Thank you Cody Willis for bringing another delectable dining-scape to the Calgary foodie scene. Future patrons take note: get there early. Reservations aren’t accepted.
When our favorite steakhouse in Kensington Village announced a new partnership with an Alberta hormone-free beef producer, they decided a press release wouldn’t cut it. Instead, Premium, the top bull in Canada, along with his lovely four-legged escort, rolled up up in prime style. Soon that name tag on his ear will be upgraded to match his new moniker: Benchmark Modern Steak.Inside the VIP dining room at Modern Steak, third-generation cattle farmer Michael Munton explained why his business tagline is “Engineering Superior Beef.” Much of it is the marbling…Michael whipped out his smartphone to show me Premium’s fat stats. Seen in the blue, the average bull in Canada has .39% fat, while Premium’s marbling (in the white) is a whopping 1.86%, making him worth every cent of the $75,000 Modern Steak paid for him. His value as a prime papa will turn a profit pretty darn quick. Mike tells me his stud fees are $30-55 bucks a straw. And Premium is prolific. He can produce 2700 of those units in a week.But enough of the numbers… Modern Steak had a table of hungry media to feed.The first course of the four-course menu was steak tartare, made with – you guessed it – Benchmark beef. And a surprising white wine pairing: Four Star Chardonnay, a delicious vanilla-scented offering from California’s central coast. Of course, no self-respecting food blogger would take a bite before taking a pic, like Irene Seto on the right. On the left, Avenue Editor Kathe Lemon politely waits to dive in.The next course was ravioli, filled with Benchmark dry aged braised short ribs, ladled with mushroom consome, topped with adorable pickled himeji mushrooms and bubbling grand padano foam. The server tried in vain to get us to eat at peak foam, without pausing to take photos.Overheard kitchen drama just before delivery of the third course: “These plates look like sh*t!” No, Gordon Ramsay was not in the kitchen. But yes, Modern Steak’s chef cares just as much.However, the plates looked fantastic to Mr. Fab and the rest of the reporters. The Benchmark Angus prime grade ribeye was cooked to rare perfection.Dessert was beef-free but equally delicious. Pavlova, a tonic bean meringue with fruit salad, lemon curd and dotted with basil mint gel, went well with the paired moscato, but I always enjoy a fine wine lineup to aid my consumption. Which was why I denied the server trying to take them away from me.While the prized bovines relaxed before their trip back to Benchmark HQ in Warner, AB, Modern Steak owner Stephen Deere hinted at a new venture: Modern Burger. He was mum on the details, but perhaps a little bourbon will loosen his lips. Modern Steak and Benchmark will partner up again for the Official Jack Daniels Stampede Dinner on Tuesday, July 11.
Last night Chef Meets BC Grape bloomed in Calgary, transforming the staid scene of a Hyatt ballroom into a boozy bounty of bonhomie. BC wines have come a long way, baby, growing from just 17 grape wineries in 1990 to 278 today. Didja know the Okanagan Valley is warmer than Napa Valley, and gets two hours more sunlight per day during peak growing season? However, my mission was more flavonoid than factoid. Here’s my tasting report.First, I sipped one of my fave blushes, Hush by Dirty Laundry. Light and summery, with a name that only adds to the satisfaction. Yes, I’m a word nerd.
Next, I moseyed over to the Haywire table, where a jauntily-named sparkling wine caught my eye. Crisp, fresh, and definitely not sweet, The Bub was a delightful discovery — and destined to be my prosecco replacement this sumer.
Then it was time to see what the Calgary foodie crew had on offer. Deane House’s bison terrines were delish, with designer books in the background to add to the ambience. The suggested pairing was with another vintner’s red, but I took my terrine straight to my all-time favorite BC red. Burrowing Owl just keeps getting better and better in the rouge department. If you really want to be a burrowing baller, ask for the Athene. None of their higher end blend was on hand, unforch. But I managed to make do with multiple tastes of their Merlot, Cab Franc and Syrah. Yeah!Despite Duncan Ly’s departure for foreign pastures, Raw Bar brought their A-game to the event. Not only because of the automatic caviar qualification (Northern Divine lives up to its name), but also because their nori crusted steel head salmon bites were amaaaazing. See what I did there with all those As?Finally, an unexpected swoon over a Chardonnay. Until now, I’ve never found a BC chard that blows my hair back, despite my fangirlness over Okanagan wines in general. But Culmina is a new blend, by experienced experts. The Triggs (of Jackson-Triggs) consider this to be a culmination of their life’s work. It’s complex and lovely, and expensive (retails for about $55). To which I say, Cheers!