When the Marriott decided to hold a battle royale, celebrating their curated bourbon flights at 250 of their finest hotels, it makes sense that Calgary would be their only Canadian stop. Because who in this country appreciates a good drink more than anyone from YYC?With four bartenders feeling the heat of battle, the lobby of the Calgary Marriott was on fire. Shelby Goodwinof The Derrick Gin Mill & Kitchen came out of the gate smokin’ hot. But Madeline MacDonald of Model Milk, Michael Sheppard of the Marriott’s One 18 Empire and Kevin McKee of Marriott Scottsdale all had mighty mixes to muddle. Being polite Canadianas, we pretended not to notice that Marriott had stacked the deck with two of their own bartenders.To show she wasn’t phased, Model Milk’s Madeline struck a serious pose in between her bar-side dance moves, while the clocked ticked away on a time limit of five minutes for each round.Boozy brown concoctions of drinkable art ensued.Michael Sheppard displayed deft dexterity, and, dare I say, unusual technique for the pour? Behind him, after claiming he loved hockey, Arizonian Kevin McKee devised what he hoped would be the drink of champions.While the American contestant’s affection for hockey may have been questioned, his fans could teach us a thing or two about supporting a team. Bourbon Battles boosters! Host Heather Greene, spirit expert and NY Times short-listed author, wondered if Kevin’s fans would buoy him to the top spot. Meanwhile, Jonny Knoxville doppelgänger aka Michael took it low. Then popped up all confidence to hustle the bus to the judges.The judges, which included James Addison, vice president of global operations for Marriott in the blue button down, Nathan Head, owner of Milk Tiger, and Terry Rock, self acclaimed Man About Town, were schmoozed as well as served.
The judges had a tough decision on their hands, but they managed to sip their way through it.Ultimately, it was Shelby Goodwin of the Derrick who took home the emblazoned bourbon barrel lid. Must have been his muy caliente technique for the old fashioned. He’ll battle again at the finale in New York on June 14, representing Calgary on National Bourbon Day. Congrats Shelby! Kick some bourbon butt in NYC!
The first ever Canadian International Fashion Film Festival debuts this summer, not in Montreal or Toronto, but Calgary. The glitzy, glam launch party at Township Kitchen+Bar offered a perfect view corridor to one of the forces behind the fest.It makes sense that artist, film lover and Calgary fashion icon Katrina Olson co-founded CANIFFF, for many reasons beyond her Moschino suit. With a rich, diverse arts community and many indie fashion designers here, Katrina tells me it’s time to put Calgarian and Canadian fashion film on a festival pedestal. She didn’t come out and say it, but she might be more partial to the former, since she’s a Calgarian born and raised.As the head of Nobles Management, a modeling agency, co-founder Antonija Klotz is also a perfect fit for a fashion film festival—a metaphorical Size 0.You don’t have to be fabulously dressed to enjoy a fashion film festival — but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Cue Evie Eshpeter’s entrance in a gorgeous Eliza J skirt from stage left. The director of Jelle Public Relations is helping spread the word about CANIFFF.Fashion film festivals are taking global style centers by storm. Paris has one. So does Berlin, New York and Milan. Just what is this hot new trend? Take off your Anna Wintour-esque black sunglasses and watch the trailer:
The festival runs July 22-23 at the Glenbow Museum, for a two-day showcase of all things luxurious, life-stylish and beautiful. Right up Blue Besos’ alley! And btw if Blue Besos actually had an alley, it would be in the Meatpacking District.
Cowtown? Or Couture Town? Decide during a darkened theater of sweet Stampede relief in July. See you at CANIFFF!
When you’re celebrating the addition two new planes to the private, friendly skies, why be subtle? “Cocktails and Jets” read the invitation, speaking the language of party destiny. Canapes could only be a bonus.
But it got better. President and COO James Elian invited me aboard a shiny new Embraer Legacy 450, the latest luxury addition to AirSprint’s aviation fleet. A full-fledged teenager, AirSprint just celebrated its 16th anniversary providing fractional jet ownership (don’t call it a timeshare) in Canada.Surrounded by tiger wood paneling and creamy leather, I immediately asked the most unoriginal question I could: “What’s the strangest request you’ve ever gotten from a client?”
James, obviously an old hand at interviews, told me a passenger once wanted their jet supplied with half a dozen chocolate chip cookies. Each with six chips.
The story sounded suspiciously ready for prime time, but I was distracted by my ability to stand in wedge heels — without my hair grazing the ceiling. That, said James, is because the cabin is 6 feet tall and 6’10” wide. With seats that stretch out for snoozing, as long as you don’t mind playing footsie with the person across from you.Meanwhile, this intrepid reporter moved on to more intense, investigative questions. Like… does the loo have a view?And is the sink better than the ones in most apartments? Yes and yes. Important things to consider if you’re taking the jet to Palm Beach, because, my polo friends, this plane can get you there, direct from Calgary. Or to the Bahamas. Or to Cancun. However, if you want to say aloha to Maui with the Legacy 450, you’ll need to gas up in Vancouver. Or Oakland.Outside the aircraft, the hangar was a hotbed for high style, exemplified by marketing connoisseur Britni Weston and Avenue cover girl and creative agency head Sharie Hunter.Jory Kinjo and co went to the mile-high limit to provide the soaring tunes.The party was also a launch pad for AirSprint’s new CJ3+, but a nearby Aston Martin received more lustful looks.
No need to worry about parking… … or legroom on the 450, either in the cabin or the cockpit. I couldn’t resist giving the 450 an imaginary test drive. This is your captain speaking: Congratulations on your new jets, AirSprint!
My new Get Together portable audio system is so damn good looking, it trumps any other minor issues it might have. Part of the House of Marley’s product lineup, co-founded by Bob’s son Rohan Marley, it isn’t your average set of visually unappetizing bluetooth speakers.I love its bamboo panels, front and back, along with its grey fabric accent. House of Marley builds all their products with earth-friendly, sustainable materials, like Forest Stewardship Council-certified woods and recycled plastics. Plus, Marley products support 1Love, the family charitable organization. The system instantly picked up my Google Play app from my iPad (I would prefer it to be Songza but we all know what happened there) to stream tunes wirelessly. The built-in rechargeable battery will go for 8 hours. If I stop playing on my iPad, the Get Together powers down on its own. Nice touch!
If I could change one thing, the Get Together would have an equalizer panel, because I find I’m craving more base.I grew up playing classical cello, so I’m picky about my sound. Other portable speakers in my collection are by Bose and JBL, which both offer a satisfying richness. However, ultimately, I’m aesthetically driven, and the previously mentioned brands are still too tech-dude for me. I moved the Get Together out of my large living room and into a medium-sized bedroom, and soon found the contained sound had me feeling alright.
It’s a big birthday across the pond today — the Queen of England is turning 90. She still rides her fave Fell pony, as seen in this pic from last year, and prefers silk scarves to helmets. Since most of us probably can’t make it to the 90-minute May celebration with 900 horses, what better way to celebrate lovely Liz than with a cookbook by a former royal chef?Cordon Bleu chef Carolyn Robb went straight from cookery school to cook it up at the Royal Household for thirteen years.
As you can probably guess, I hold a torch for her all her polo-playing charges. The fact they look so bummed after a loss in this photo makes me love them even more. So of course I want to see where they got their energy from during the Chef Robb days.Chef Robb advises how to cook food fit for a king in a totally down-to-earth manner, with a chapter devoted to organic food for children. Lovingly published by ACC Editions, The Royal Touch, is a collage of recipes, photos, watercolor illustrations and hand-written notes from happy royals with full tummies.
The ones from Princess Diana are especially poignant.
The book offers a bounty of recipes, from breakfast to dessert, with clear instructions and Carolyn’s personal take on each dish. Since I’ve been on a quinoa kick lately, I’ll be trying the Warm Salad of Halloumi next. With quinoa, roasted aubergine and lemon mint dressing. Mmmm. Even more delicious is a 50% discount for Blue Besos readers. Head to the ACC website to register, then enter promotional code RT50. Happy cooking!
The glorious, awe-inspiring Canadian Rockies! This is the view from the top of the gondola at Lake Louise Ski Resort, which is still open — until May 8th. To my right, you can see the lake which this part of Banff (Canada’s first national park) was named for. The lake, and Deer Lodge, our digs for the weekend, are both only five minutes from the bottom of the hill.The famous turquoise glacier-fed water is already starting to appear through the rink that I played hockey on in February. The paths around the lake are in good conditions for a hike…… but after a day of snowboarding, apres-ski at Deer Lodge, just down the road, is more tempting.First up, into the rooftop hot tub, for a gorgeous view of the sunset over the Rockies. You can just make out the Beehive, a roundish mountain next to Lake Agnes teahouse, a beautiful hike to do in the summer. Meanwhile, this truly is a hot tub time machine, because afterward you’ll find yourself inside Deer Lodge, which is like going back to 1925, the year it opened.Tilt back your glass at the bar and you’ll see this guy, which makes perfect sense, because you’re in the Caribou Lounge. Just because you’re in a UNESCO World Heritage Site doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent drink.After a day of snowboarding it only made sense to apres with a charcuterie platter. It’s something of a specialty at Deer Lodge, because parent company Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts raises its own elk, bison and beef.Now that your tummy is primed for food, mosey by the bighorn to the Mount Fairview Dining Room.The Grilled Alberta Beef with parmesan frites is delectable.If you have room for desert, I highly recommend moving to the Great Room and having it in front of the fire. There is no room service at the hotel, but you’re welcome to bring your own drinks or nibbles up to your room. Ours had an incredible view — check it out.What a wonderful weekend! See you next year, Deer Lodge!
As unbelievable as it may seem with summer-strength sunshine blazing in Calgary, there’s plenty of snow in Lake Louise. The mountains are still open for top-to-bottom runs. Deer Lodge, just a five-minute drive from the ski hill, is the perfect location for a last hurrah spring skiing weekend getaway.Staying at Deer Lodge is like traveling back in time, to the era when this fabulous woman went boating on Lake Louise (just a few minutes up the road from the hotel). You’ll find photos like these all over the rustic hotel, which opened in 1925, after welcoming guests for two years as a teahouse.If you stay here, know going in that the operating word here is rustic, and that the main aspect of the lodge’s charm. This is not a five-star hotel. There’s no room service, and no elevators. After climbing three flights to the top floor of the Tower, we found the Crosby Room, full of delightful nooks, nary a television in sight. It’s named for Gertrude Crosby, the original founder of the lodge who opened it to bust the exclusive the Chateau had on the area.The bed, with its super-thick down duvet, was tucked into its own alcove…… with this glorious view of the Victoria Glacier. Which definitely made up for the Scald Warning sign in the bathroom. With the charm of original hand hewn logs comes original plumbing. Although, fyi, I didn’t find it dangerous. I kept the temperature warm instead of hot, and experienced a few cold shots instead of scalding.The charm carries through to the bar, the restaurant, the games room and the library, where ivories are available for guests to tickle. I found one television, downstairs with the pool and foosball tables….. but who wants to watch TV in the Canadian Rockies, when there are a stack of books and games for fireside entertainment?Up next, did I pay attention to this sign on Lake Louise? How did I possibly entertain myself without easy access to television? How was the snowboarding this late in the year? And what about apres ski at Deer Lodge? Hint on that last one: so good that I will probably break my food porn rule. Again.
Everyone who owns horses has that special pony, even if they won’t admit to a favorite.
Simon was mine, but he got saddled with a storyteller. The star of my string (I liked to call him that even when he was often the only one in my string), he was all over my blog, my Instagram feed, my life. Featured in Polo Players’ Edition last November, he even has an upcoming cameo in a charity calendar – he’ll be Mr. September.
So I just wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t write his obituary.
When I bought Simon in 2013, I’d just come off six weeks of crutches, after foot surgery. A month before that it was cancer surgery. I’d had a small part of my nose removed, but it felt like the biggest thing in the world. That summer, all I wanted to do was play polo and have fun, so I was thrilled to find him just a few weeks before the season started. He had a scar on his nose, too.
Then the floods hit Calgary and I was evacuated. I was lucky, since my top-floor condo on Elbow River wasn’t damaged, but the bottom floor of the building was devastated. As I bounced from one guest room to another for seven weeks, Simon became my constant.
People in polo tend to worry about heart attacks in older horses, especially during a game. At 23, my first-ever pony was playing in what should be his retirement years.
But Simon’s heart was too big to break. He carried me through three years of polo, playing two chukkers a game, barely raising a sweat.
You know that first sunny, spring-like day, when the birds are singing and the sky is brilliant blue? There always seems to be one dramatic day where it hits me — how beautiful the world is, making me almost giddy with happiness.
This year that day was Saturday, March 5th, 2016. It was shaping up to be unusually warm. I had a tight schedule – a business meeting in the early afternoon, with plans to zip home to get gussied up for the Black and White gala ball. Many of my favorite people were going to be there, and I was really looking forward to it.
But weather like this in March, in Calgary? I couldn’t resist taking my ponies out for a set. Simon and Gabby were on winter vacation at the polo club, but they’d be up for some exercise. Squeezing it in to my hectic day would be worth it. I listened to a comedy show on the drive to the club and laughed the whole way.
In the valley behind the club, as usual, it was a little tricky to find them. The pasture is currently home to thirty horses. They all look a little wild, fuzzy and fat for the winter that is normally cold.
Soon, however, I noticed a pair of ponies looking at me expectantly. With the long hair on his muzzle, Simon’s trademark scar was even more noticeable than usual. He was doing that cute quivering thing with his lip, anticipating the treats that would be his, once we climbed the steep hill to the pasture gate. After calmly leaving behind the rest of their winter herd, the two buddies were well rewarded with carrots. Sweetly and quietly, they stood patiently as I tacked up.
I decided I’d ride Gabby and pony Simon. I’d ridden Simon a few weeks before, on another warm day, and something about his knees made me anxious. Near the end of our set, his front legs seemed to lock up for a second or two. At first I thought he was tripping, but it was something else. I had hopped off, walking him the rest of the way, knowing, but not wanting to know, that Simon could finally be showing his age: 27 years.
He hadn’t seemed to be in any pain, though, and today it was obvious he was delighted with the weather as we headed for the track.
After ten minutes of walking, Gabby and Simon naturally moved into a trot, and it felt mean to hold them back. Wearing just a t-shirt in the fifteen-degree temperature, I couldn’t believe we were the only ones at the polo club. The fields looked ready to be played.
On the final section, I directed my horses off the track, alongside the boards of the main fields. They wanted to canter, and I just couldn’t deny them. It was spring and they were feeling good! Beside me, Simon gave his traditional early season buck. He looked so strong, keeping pace with Gabby. I hoped whatever I had noticed last time was just temporary.
After a couple of minutes, I brought them back to a walk, and we took it slow back to the barn. With their shaggy coats, they’d probably be a little sweaty, but the day was so warm I wasn’t worried. They’d have plenty of time to dry.
I dragged a brush across their unruly coats and checked my watch — I was right on schedule. After I brought them back to the pasture, I’d have just enough time for a quick change of clothes and the short drive to my meeting. But first, more carrots were in order.
We moseyed back to the paddock that led to the valley. Before I opened the second gate, Simon dropped for an exuberant roll in the dirt. Yeah! Springtime!
As soon as the gate swung open, Gabby zipped out first, trotting down the hill to the rest of the herd. Since he’d paused to let me pet him one last time, Simon was a few paces behind.
Going down the hill, he sped up to catch Gabby, giving another buck for good measure. Then the next part happened in one awful second. He landed badly on his front right. He flipped, spiraling through a massive, horse-sized somersault. Then he was standing again, but his front right leg dangled unnaturally from the knee.
Even from a hundred feet away, I knew exactly what that meant.
I fought the urge to run to him, afraid my cell phone wouldn’t get a signal down that hill. Although my fingers barely worked, somehow I called Candice, my vet. She wasn’t close enough to help, but she assured me she knew another vet nearby. I managed another quick, strangled call to cancel my meeting. Then I sprinted down the hill.
Simon was standing on three legs, listing on the steep angle. The rest of the herd seemed to know that something was very, very wrong. Some stood quietly nearby, as if offering a calming presence, but a chestnut reared up, slicing his front hooves dangerously through the air. With his nostrils flaring, and his ears pinned back, he looked ready to destroy anyone who came near Simon, including me.
So there I was, alone in the pasture with Simon and 29 other horses, crying my eyes out. Sometimes I’d manage to stand beside Simon and pet him, but other times that chestnut chased me off. I tried to stop crying, so I too could be a calming presence, but I failed miserably.
The other horses became increasingly rattled. A dozen ran in tight circles, just twenty feet away. The chestnut pawed the ground, like a bull seeing red.
It seemed like it went on forever, but it was probably only ten or fifteen minutes.
The vet arrived. So did the woman with whom I had just cancelled my meeting. I’d never met her, but she was a horsewoman, and insisted I shouldn’t be alone. She immediately stepped in to help, becoming a human wall between the upset horses and Simon.
The vet kindly explained what she’d have to do and how it would take place. Simon was in shock, so hopefully he wasn’t in much pain. He kept bobbing his head, like he couldn’t figure out why one of his legs wouldn’t work. I had to say goodbye. The vet carefully positioned her syringe. Simon buckled almost instantly, falling over, and breathed out one final time.
On the ground, with my arms thrown around my favorite horse, I was a mess. I didn’t know I had that many tears in me. Hot and fast, they streamed onto Simon’s winter coat.
My boyfriend arrived. The vet, and the stranger who was now a friend, left.
The other horses edged closer. It was time to let them have their own goodbyes. Some of them have probably known Simon for much longer than I have.
Look, my boyfriend said. They’re crying too.
I didn’t think he meant it literally, but I lifted my head from Simon’s furry neck, blinking to focus. Several of the horses were crying. Big, fat tears, rolling down their muzzles.
And that chestnut? He was staring straight at me, two watery trails flowing down either side of his nose. Inconsolable. Like me.
It’s been a month now. I didn’t go to that gala ball. I could barely leave the house for a week. Social gatherings were out of the question. Soon, maybe, I’ll be able to say his name without my voice getting tight and tears welling up.
I want to thank everyone who sent the kindest, sweetest notes. The calls, even flowers. Everyone who has horses knows what it’s like. Most have been through something similar.
I keep seeing his uncontrollable orbit through the air in my mind’s eye, over and over, the maneuver that was finished in a flash on a permanent slow-mo loop. I’ll never forget the way his leg looked, dangling uselessly, streaming with blood. But the indelible brand on my brain is worth it, because it means what needed to be done happened quickly. I was right there.
Simon is gone, and my heart aches. But he went out in a happy buck blaze of glory, after a beautiful ride around the track, after a long life of playing amazing polo. Double chukker or nothing!
A new restaurant has quietly opened up on the hippest section of First Avenue SW, with no sign except a small speech bubble on the door: Ten Foot Henry.Which is weird, because Henry himself is not known for being discreet. Seen here, directing those in need to the loo, Henry is in all his usual ten-foot glory. But perhaps he’s been relegated to the hallway because he — ahem — would be an overbearing contrast with the subtle decor.
The room is a relief from over-themed design that can sometimes overwhelm the ‘latest new place.’ Light and airy despite the lack of windows, a plethora of hanging plants allude to the freshness of what you’re about to eat.
Aja Lapointe will happily take credit for the food (along with co-founder and executive chef Stephen Smee) but not for the plants. Those are firmly rooted under the green thumbs of Plant Terrariums, my succulent go-to in Inglewood, and Esme.The bar is a great spot for dining solo, but if you’re with friends, get ready to share.Even though the menu was full of intriguing food choices, I had gossip to get to. So I leapt at the lunch suggestion to let the restaurant make all the decisions. The low-priced option has a low-key name, “five plates for $19,” and today it started with the Henry Salad. The Henry kitchen has the rare talent of knowing how not to over-dress. The greens, served to share, were quickly followed with a mushroom omelette made with montasio cheese.
The share plates kept on showing up. Charred broccoli with celery root soubise was next, then a bucatini that was the ultimate in al dente. Dessert is not pictured, because it was raw truffles, concocted from pure cocoa. We ate them too damn fast for photo evidence.
Lunch was paired with a “friendly Valpolicella” (to quote our server, and I totally agree) and the lovely Lana Rogers. A toast to your new PR + Consulting company, Lana, and cheers to Ten Foot Henry, now part of my Calgary top ten restaurant list.
Which new book is gracing my old coffee table now? The Photographing Tourist – a Storyteller’s Guide to Travel and Photography.Besides being chock full of gorgeous travel photos from around the globe, author David Noyes’ book is peppered with tips on how to capture that priceless Kodak moment during your own travels.As a shutterbug-slash-travel addict myself, I found it interesting to see some of the things I do while taking photos are actual techniques. But Noyes, an award-winning pro photog, has plenty of other suggestions to help me up my game. But, in case you’re wondering, not a single selfie instruction. Thank goodness.
As someone who self-publishes regularly right here on Blue Besos, I was also intrigued to discover that The Photographing Tourist was self-published. Buy it directly from the author here and a donation will be made to the Innocent Eyes Project. Shipping it to the True North? Use CANADA to get a $10 discount.