When Waalflower Kitchen and Cocktails opens its doors to the public on March 5, chances are good it will be the Cocktail part of their name that will lure you in. Their approach to modern mixology brings you combinations you may have never sipped before, like this Gardener’s Tonic cocktail with butterfly pea flower. But, when asked to make a not-so-hipster Pink Lady (not pictured because I immediately guzzled it with gusto), they are ready for any #cocktailchallenge. Don’t try this at home, kids. Simply because it won’t taste as good.Look up from your glass, and you may notice there’s something… familiar about this place. The location at the bottom of Edmonton Trail, in the old Waal building (kudos on the cheeky name, Waalflower), used to be the home of Whitehall, and home to many good times. Now, with new decor and more generous approach to the space around the bar, it appears that the good times are about to return.Just when you wondered if there were any reporters left in the world of media conglomeration (perhaps you don’t, but it’s a topic I think about all too often), Calgary’s foodie media showed up in full force, ready to see if Waalflower would bring it, beyond the purple drinks. Hi Shelley!It was time for me to take my seat. And take a picture to prove my selfie-averse self was actually there.We were started off with a scrumptious creamy schmear.Lamb meatballs, meet my tummy.Tuna and smoked trout? Check.Eggs for dinner? Yes. Especially when paired with Beef Merguez Sausage en Cocotte with dates and cilantro.The barramundi with orange, arugula and caponata sauce was delicious but difficult. If you order it, be prepared to de-bone your bites. Preferably before they reach your mouth. I haven’t cultivated this mediterranean talent, and my fabulousness as a fine diner suffered during this course.Meanwhile, the roasted chicken with spinach, lemon potatoes and garlic tzatziki offers a satisfying stick-to-your bones large entree with less complications. After dinner, it only made sense to head back to the bar, where the VIP preview had reached another level. As appropriate for any party influenced by copious amounts of cocktails. CBC’s David Gray of the Eyeopener (see if you can spot him in the blissed-out blur of this action shot) had an early morning wakeup call, though, so he resisted the repeat siren call of Bar Manager JD Darnes (hunched over his next concoction on the right).Mike O’Connor, of Calgary Stampede Rodeo Committee fame, and Thomas Keeper of Tink Real Estate (and reality tv star, but that’s another story) epitomize the dichotomy of Calgary’s fashion story: you can’t go wrong with sleek city style or cowboy chic. Both are always apropos. Of course, you can never control it. Any good party anywhere always ends up in the kitchen. Welcome to the neighborhood, Waalflower! And thanks for the wonderful evening.
Now Chef Darren MacLean, seen above at his scrumptuous Shokunin restaurant in Mission, is one of the contenders on The Final Table — Netflix’s first foray into the dazzling world of chef-driven cooking competitions, complete with intimidating judges. The Final Table premieres on November 20.
The premise? 24 chefs vie to impress the world’s toughest palates as they whip up iconic dishes from nine nations in this star-packed competition. And yes, in classic Netflix style, you’ll be able to binge-watch it — all 10 episodes will be posted at the same time. Just in time for American Thanksgiving, for our friends to the south who will be in the ultimate food mood.
Get a seat at Shokunin for while you still can. It may become crowded with binge-watchers looking to binge-eat Chef Darren’s yummy yakitori. As he says in the trailer, being the final chef at the table “would absolutely change everything.” Check it out to cheer Chef Darren on!
Did you know there’s a wave to catch in Calgary? River surfers have a plan to build more, along with an urban beach, right downtown! Plus a wacky new film that predicts the zombie apocalypse will be fought on ice. In a hockey arena! Watch the vid for these stories and upcoming concert listings in YYC.
Tucked in between two entrances to Cowboys Casino sits the historic Dafoe building, built in 1920. Formerly home to La Vita e Bella for a decade, the restaurant’s owners have recently rebranded to Cardinale. But the Italian part wasn’t changing. It’s written into the lease — no joke!The new name was inspired by an Italian cocktail, which General Manager Graham Teare is mixing in this action shot.And boy, does he know how to mix. Lots of places in town claim they are artistes in this department, but these are some of the most delectable drinks I’ve tasted in Calgary. The flavor-forward Sage Advice, on the left, is a garden in a glass, a kaleidoscope of gin, peas, sage and more. On the right, the Suspiria combines aperol, basil, balsamic reduction and strawberries, amongst several other ingredients, to create a sweet-smelling concoction that is not too sweet (my current drink dictation).Craving a caprese salad? Get the Panzanella. It has the ingredients you want, and more, all piled onto a savory piece of pagnotta toast.I’m not one for fried cheese, so this was an accidental order (I need to start reading the fine print on menus) but this Bocconcini was the most sophisticated fried cheese I’ve ever had. If fried cheese is your jam, try this.Carbonara was calling me so strongly that I ordered the Mezze Maniche, even though my hot date had already called dibs. Major food blogger no no! However, no regrets, it was delish. Although if I could change one thing, I’d want the plate served with the egg yolk on top of the pasta. There’s something so satisfying about mixing it yourself. However, I’m sure the chef at Cardinale believes he can stir it up better. The menu here is inspired by traditional Italian cooking methods, using a combo of local produce and imported Italian ingredients not readily available in Calgary. My tastebuds definitely deferred.Dessert comes in decidedly large, decadent portions. To the Ricotta al Caffe (left) and the Gelato of dark chocolate, toasted hazelnut and salted pistachio, I recommend you say yes.But this summer, if it ever comes, and if you happen to be watching your waistline, you almost don’t need to order dessert. This Chocolate Mousse Spritz (not to be confused with spritzer – that’s with wine) is just one of six new spritzes that Cardinale will introduce this summer. Maybe in June, maybe in July… whenever the weather gods choose to grace Calgary with a semblance of civilized temperatures. These cocktails will make Cowboys people-watching from the patio even more entertaining.Don’t confuse Cardinale with that other YYC restaurant name that begins with C and ends in A-L-E, as someone I know may have done. And good to know: Happy Hour is Monday to Friday from 3 until 5. Because I see the need for more Sage Advice in my future!
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.
Soon.Soon these barns at the Calgary Polo Club will be full of ponies. Soon the grass will be green. And soon I will be wearing my helmet and using my mallet. But if I’m going to show up at the club like a hop-along groupie, at least I can do it in style. French Connection’s Nix Nights Block Dress has a discreet side zip and a subtle stretch in the fabric, giving anyone a flattering look that will fend off all Pretty Woman types.After a working winter in California or surviving the subzero temperatures of being put out to pasture in Alberta, many of the horses have returned, enjoying their last few days of hay and relaxation before summer prep begins in earnest. Reassuringly structured and boxy, French Connection’s Westbourne Bag could tote a healthy selection of carrots……which would catch the attention of this guy. Enjoy that mane while you have it, buddy! You’re due for a haircut.With the distance between all the paddocks and fields, it’s good to have alternate transportation at the CPC, especially if you’re moving slower than usual. Paired with their Polly Plains daisy white tank, French Connection’s floaty floral maxi skirt flows pleasantly in the breeze, allowing for easy pedaling.The official polo season hasn’t started yet in Calgary, which means there’s still time to get your perfect divet-stomping dress. The styles seen here are available at French Connection.