March is always an exciting month for restauranteurs and food lovers in Calgary. It’s the month where Avenue Magazine celebrates our food community and hands out their annual Restaurant Awards. Like last year, I was excited and honoured to be on the judging panel with some of Calgary’s top culinary folks.
With all of the restaurants we have popping up lately, next year it’s going to be even more difficult to decide who takes the top spot in the various categories we argue over in a small room. Picture a heated Law and Order courtroom debate. Yes, it is that intense – ok, maybe not that intense.
In addition to the many categories we deliberated on, all contributors had the opportunity to put together some ‘Top 10′ lists to go along with the 10th anniversary of this particular issue. (You can check out all category winners and other content here)
A couple of the lists I wrote up were on food trends in Calgary. Food trends that I thought should be on their way out and trends that I’m happy are happening around town. Obviously, just like dining out, some things come down to a matter of taste. So, take a look at each of these lists. I’m curious to know if you agree or disagree with me.
Ten Calgary Food Trends We Wish Would Go Away
For example, I think ridiculously flavoured vodkas like this need to hit the road. What do you think? James Bond would be so unimpressed!
On the flip side of things, I love a good cocktail and am so happy to see cocktail culture gaining momentum in Calgary.
So, what do you think?
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to visit San Diego twice in the past little while. Back in November, I spent some time there with friends, checking out the zoo, soaking up some sun in La Jolla and just enjoying the city in general.
My most recent jaunt there was just prior to flying out to Australia from L.A. My friend, Chez, and I took an early morning train (notice my tired, coffee-loving face pictured above) down from San Juan Capistrano for a quick overnight trip where we basically ate, strolled around, ate again and strolled around some more.
I’ve, more or less, fallen in love with San Diego. It’s a beautiful, vibrant city, extremely walkable and boasts some wicked food. I’ve had some great cocktails and small bites in the Gaslamp district at Searsucker (probably the best calamari I’ve ever tasted). The Hopping Pig is a great pub to stop by for lunch with some unique microbrews and quality menu, but out of all meal times of the day, my heart belongs to brunch.
One thing I’ve been bad at lately is remembering to share my writing on here from other publications. Well, truth be told, I am bad at a lot things…Dating, singing, counting…the list goes on, but, anyway, here are a few different pieces I’ve done for Avenue Magazine in the past few months. Every month there seems to be a great new restaurant popping up on the scene, which is awesome. I can’t wait to see what new flavours and culinary experiences 2013 is going to bring, now that it’s just over a month away! Yikes!
On the corner of 10th Avenue and 12th Street S.W., right across from Community Natural Foods, and is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.
The small space features an open kitchen with a cozy surrounding environment and a sun-filled patio (weather permitting, of course).
A step up from the standard brunch offerings, you can choose from a selection of unique egg Benedicts like chorizo, caramelized onion and goat cheese, or sliced Angus beef with sautéed mushrooms. I decided to try the smoked ham and prawn option with mascarpone cheese ($16). The perfectly poached eggs sat on top a medley of ham, prawns and cheese appropriately topped with hollandaise. A trio of frittatas, as well as a brisket hash, are also on the breakfast menu…
This past snowy long weekend, my friend, Stephanie and I were able to get a little taste of Banff’s annual restaurant festival, Bon Appetit Banff. The ten day event, which began yesterday, involves over twenty different establishments around the town, ranging from pubs to fine dining. Much like Calgary’s The Big Taste, participating restaurants will offer diners a three course meal at prix fix prices ranging at great price points ($25, $35, or $45).
Seeing as Banff is only a short (and beautiful) drive from Calgary, heading to the mountains for dinner again soon is looking very appealing to me. We had the opportunity to try out some dishes from several of the restaurants taking part in Bon Appetit Banff. Here’s a bit of preview…
The Primrose Dining Room, located inside of The Rimrock Hotel, had a nice selection of dishes for us to enjoy. Their warm dining room is lined with tall windows with views of their back courtyard and snow-covered trees.
We sampled a very weather-appropriate, Coconut Curry Chicken, a Lobster and Snow Crab Pappardelle with marscapone, and, last, but not least, an interesting take on ‘surf ‘n turf’ consisting of braised short rib and steelhead trout.
Primrose’s Short Rib and Steelhead Trout ‘Surf ‘n Turf’.
Isn’t it always crazy how quickly the summer goes by? Now, I know that it’s not over yet, but I think we’re all starting to gear up for fall; whether that means heading back to school, burning up your last few summer vacation days or just plain weening yourself off all the gorgeous patios you can enjoy a cold drink on around town.
My cooking program, Start From Scratch, has begun accepting applications for our fall session, complete with a new chapter in Saskatoon, so my mind is already slowly transitioning to back-to-(cooking)-school mode. Not only has the summer sailed swiftly along, but this entire past twelve months in general. Ox & Angela just had their one year anniversary over the weekend. It seems like only yesterday I wrote this post about attending one of their very first services for friends and family last August. Crazy!
Anyway, I snagged a table on their sunny little patio this past Friday to have lunch with a good friend (just in case you didn’t know, Ox is now open for lunch service seven days a week). The menu here primarily focuses on tapas offerings, so many choices, only so much room in one’s stomach…
We ordered a handful of dishes, starting of with the Shaved Zucchini Salad. A generous amount of chilled zucchini was served with manchego cheese, mint, chunks of almond and lemon juice. It was very refreshing.
The calamari was absolutely delicious, as I am a sucker for grilled squid when it’s done right. The orange gave the dish a nice sweetness, with a saltyy intensity from the sun dried olives balancing it all out.
The toast was equally tasty, with a nice variety of sautéed mushrooms, a hint of truffle oil and a poached egg perched on top to add some fresh, yolk-y goodness into the mix. Our waiter told us this was definitely one of menu favourites and I can definitely see why.
The broth sweet and tangy, made with sherry, sliced garlic, chili and a bit of lemon. We used all of the grilled bread served on the side to soak it all up. After all of this, there was no room for dessert. Sad, but true. Oh well, next time, next time…
It seems like we’ve been getting a lot of new restaurants popping up in Calgary this past little while, and that is a good thing! Similar to my excitement for Ox And Angela, the massive sign for Borgo Trattoria caught my eye repeatedly for weeks prior to it’s opening in early September.
My friends and I popped into Borgo on a very busy Friday night. The interior of the space is amazing. Really fantastic light fixtures (On a side note, I’m so sick of those ‘vintage’ light bulbs lounges/restaurants are overusing these days…(*cough* Local 510/522 *cough*), great bench seating in the back half of the restaurant by their open kitchen, with a central bar area.
They start the day off as an espresso bar, serving the standard drinks (illy espresso of course, pictured), as well as home-made pastries. Turning into a lunch spot at 11:30 a.m., afternoon snack spot from 3-5, and a full-service dinner destination from 5 p.m. on. Wow, that was a lot to say…
The menu here has a lot of options. Small bites, Pastas (both half and full orders are offered), as well as different cuts of meats. Since there was four if us, we decided to order every item from the evening’s Cicheti (small bites) section. Some items were available by the piece, while others were a set price per plate. The Cicheti offerings change frequently, so you might not be able to enjoy the exact same dishes we did on this particular night.
Here were some of the highlights from the small plates that we ordered…
The veal and pork meatballs (ordered by the piece) were nice and tender. There was a very simple marinara sauce on top and just a sprinkling on parmesan cheese.
On this board, sat some crispy little crostini, proscuitto, and a melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella. Topped with some micro-basil as a finishing touch. Classic pairing here, I love a mild mozzarella, this did not disappoint.
We were all fighting over the last few bites of this mushroom dish. Sauteed wild mushrooms in a rich sauce, topped with parsley and some bread on the side to soak up all of the sauce. Which we did.
Saving the best for last, these beauties would be Borgo’s eggplant ‘fritta’ with a little pail (cute, hey?) of fennel yogurt dip. Eggplant can get mushy easily, so it was fantastic to enjoy the vegetable in crispy ‘french fry’ shape. I will always order this dish every time I’m in the restaurant. Even an eggplant hater would succumb to the tastiness of this dish. No joke!
After digesting the entire small bites menu, we were still a tad hungry, so decided to order some gnocchi to share, as well as some swordfish (fish option changes daily), followed by their dessert platter which featured four Italian desserts including a chocolate-dipped cannoli and a heavenly sweet panna cotta.
As far as drinks go here, Borgo offers a solid selection of wines and cocktails, but what I found most interesting is that the restaurant has three Italian beers that are imported directly from Italy (like the Birra Moretti, pictured) and are exclusive to the restaurant, well, in Calgary anyway.
Lastly, I just want to mention that the price point of the menu here is absolutely amazing. The most expensive dish we ordered was the gnocchi, which was only $16. Small bites ranged from $2-$8. If the IKEA ‘Start the car!’ commercial pops into your head when you get the bill, that’s ok…it happened to me too!
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