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.
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.
Fairmont Cows roamed the Oak Room tonight seeking greener pastures at the Palliser. No greenbacks here, but luckily these multi-colored mammals aren’t adverse to multi-colored money. After grazing the globe with celeb bloggers like Mr. Fab and Binzento, as well as Fairmont Chef Herbert Gradeur, they’re back home in Calgary to raise money for Ronald McDonald House of Southern Alberta. Silent auction success!
Best-selling author Todd Babiak knows exactly how many suits he owns.“30 in total. 11 in rotation.” The man who identifies as overdressed on his professional Facebook page has a passion for fashion. That’s why we’re meeting at the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary ahead of Wordfest, which starts Monday — not to discuss the new book he released September 25th, with promo billboards coming soon to a city near you.
“There’s a stereotype of writers that they’re frumpy and they don’t dress well,” he says. “Because writers aren’t supposed to have any money, they’re supposed to be struggling and they’re supposed to be counter-cultural.”
His penchant for personal style is a rebellion to that — and growing up poor. He started off doubling preppy polo shirts in high school, collars up, and moved on to suits. Still, he’s embarrassed by his numbers, as if it might be a tad too extravagant. As a former news anchor, I think 11 sounds woefully low, especially for someone who wears them almost every day, even when he’s skateboarding to a business meeting in Edmonton (his home base). But then I remember he’s a guy. I ask him how many ties he has. “Oh, zillions.”According to his latest count, he also has a zillion shirts. Todd favors Banana Republic shirts for their slim fit and French cuffs. Which, in turn, can only mean a zillion pairs of cufflinks. These ones are from Artworks in Edmonton.With accessories like this conversation starter at the top of his fly, no one will ever notice if Todd wears the same suit twice. He picked up this Flightpath Designs belt buckle at the Art Gallery of Alberta.
Dressing up is the great divide between his books and his business — a marketing company called Story Engine. “I have a psychological switch in the day. I work on novels in the morning wearing comfortable clothes, even PJs. Then I shower and get ready. Even if I’m going to stay at home, I get dressed up to work on Story Engine.”
He’s color-blind, but he knows the J. Lindeberg suit he’s sporting is brown. He’s got a thing for Swedish menswear designers (Tiger is another go-to for Todd) who do that slim Euro fit. “It works for me because I’m little.”A new round of drinks arrive, distracting us from a lengthy digression into the history of pleated pants. The Oak Room’s cocktail menu had so many delectable creations it was a tough choice, but I settled on the Green Park, because of the basil, and substituted Hendrick’s Gin for Bombay. Lemony and refreshing, it also part of the same color palette as the cover of Come Barbarians. But as delicious as it was, those floating green bits made me nervous. I ducked out to the loo to make sure nothing was stuck in my teeth.Which gave me a chance to appreciate the sumptuous lobby. With centennial celebrations in the works for June 2014, the Fairmont is one of the few old-school places in Calgary where you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The lobby is usually bustling, yet hushed. The perfect place to rock my new skinny crops that I stole from the Gap for $16.99. Who cares that they were on the summer sale rack? The fact that it’s not snowing yet in YYC is the ultimate excuse to bare some ankle. Purse, Gucci. Shoes, MICHAEL by Michael Kors. But back to Babiak in the Oak Room, where he was still focused on fashion. “You can’t wear bow ties all the time,” he says. “They’re too whimsical. So I’m probably 20% bow ties.”He looks for ones that are hand-made in small batches. Last time he was in Brooklyn, he discovered a boutique where he picked up this Pierrepont Hicks bow: 100% cotton and 100% hipster.“Also, I like the way an untied bow tie looks.”
So do I Todd, so do I.Did you notice the vintage polo photos on the wall behind our table? Of course this is now my favorite nook in the Oak Room.You’ll have plenty of opportunities to acquire your own autographed copy of Come Barbarians at the 18th annual literary festival in Calgary this week. With three Wordfest appearances, we’ll see if Todd ups his bow tie ratio. And if he wears one, will it stay tied?
If you love a pair of shoes so much you buy a pair of colors, who says you can’t wear both at once? Not Sing Tao journalist Phoebe Cheng (aka Miss Match), who picked up both sets of heels in Hong Kong. Much more subtle than my constant Aircast clash, while adding oomph to the Oval Room at the Fairmont Palliser.
Cuff me. Please. This Jazz Age-inspired diamond bracelet is one of the select pieces from the Tiffany & Co collection currently making pit stops at flagship stores around the world, including Sydney, London, Los Angeles and… Calgary!Every year since 1845, Tiffany & Co publishes their Blue Book. Historical fun fact: it was the first mail order catalogue to be distributed in the United States. Now, with The Great Gatsby making it a banner year for bling, Tiffany is taking its catalog on the road. Four heavily insured items were driven across the Rockies in a heavily armored vehicle for a brief but breathtaking appearance tonight in the Oval Room at the Fairmont Palliser.When Tiffany’s elite gemstones travel, it seems only fitting that the security detail keeps the aesthetics to the same high standards.Tiffany’s design theme for 2013 is Art Deco, in keeping with the pieces designed specifically for The Great Gatsby. Baz Luhrmann’s film sets may have been entirely computer generated, but the jewels adorning his actresses were real. Unfortunately, the Savoy, a headpiece of diamonds and freshwater cultured pearls, only appeared in the pages of the Blue Book. Perhaps it was just as well — only four headpieces were made and at $200,000 all four are already spoken for. No sense setting your shopping sights on something that isn’t available.However, there was more than enough ice on hand to melt the hearts of those invited to the champagne reception.Mount Lefroy looms in the background of these diamond and platinum chandelier earrings.Rocking the namesake: don’t mess with Tiffany while she’s wearing a $727,500 Tiffany ring.