Saying Yes

Buenos Aires

I’ve always been a cautious person who doesn’t really like to take unnecessary risks. Sure, I’ll try weird foods and go travelling to foreign countries, but in general, my default setting is to stay within my comfort zone. I like routine, and change always takes me a while to adjust to. I like to plan ahead, and I’m not very good at being spontaneous. Because of these things, I sometimes avoid exploring new opportunities because I’m not very comfortable with improvising my way through the unknown.

One thing I realized on our South America trip is that I don’t always want to be the “no person”. I don’t want to be the person that shoots an idea down just because it seems crazy or unrealistic, or because it’s something I’m not necessarily comfortable with. Being a realist and thinking carefully through your options is great a lot of the time, but sometimes you just need to jump in with your eyes closed and see what happens. There may be repercussions, but most of the time you come away with an experience worth talking about. You might be a little tired the next day, or get a little dirty, or get your truck horribly stuck in a muddy salt flat, but every time you push yourself beyond your comfort zone you grow in a way that you wouldn’t have if you just stayed home.

I’ve been trying to say yes more often, and get involved in things I might have otherwise passed by. While I still want to make sure I’m respecting my limits and taking care of myself, I know that my life will be richer if I continue to take risks and put myself out there in big and small ways. After all, the worst outcomes still make for great stories.

Cafayate – Part 2

I know it’s been a while since our South America trip ended, but I want to write about the last part of our trip before I totally forget about it! So, from time to time I’m going to go back and revisit our big adventure. 

We’d had a great day of wine tasting in Cafayate, so the next day we decided that we wanted to do something a little bit different. The owner of our hostel had told us about a hike close to town that would take us to some beautiful waterfalls and give us the opportunity to swim in the Rio Colorado, which would be a welcome respite from the heat of Northern Argentina. Although most people who did the hike hired a guide from the local community, we were told that it was possible to do the trek without one. The only caveat was that the trail was not well marked, or marked at all, really, so we might have trouble finding our way on our own. Feeling like we wanted to save some money and be independent, we decided to give it a shot solo. The man who greeted us at the entrance to the parking lot was not happy with our decision and tried to tell us that we were obligated to hire a guide, but we stood firm and set out unaccompanied.

Rio Colorado Cafayate hikeRio Colorado hike

If you’re thinking about doing this hike, you should know that no one’s exaggerating when they say that the trail isn’t marked. The trek was basically a big guessing game, where we jumped from one side of the river, which was more of a stream in this blazingly hot and dry November, to the other attempting to navigate our way up the valley. There was a group with a guide just a bit ahead of us that we tried to sneakily follow for a while, but eventually we lost them and it was up to us to find our way again. We never felt like we were in danger, and in a way it was kind of fun to chart our own confusing course, but I do understand why they encourage you to hire someone who actually knows where they’re going.

Rio Colorado hikeRio Colorado Cafayate hike

After we’d been hiking for a couple of hours we became really unsure of where the trail went next, so we decided to stop. We were running low on water and the sun was unrelenting, so we really didn’t want to go much further anyways. Luckily we were stopped right by a little waterfall with a nice pool, so we got to go for a swim. The water was absolutely frigid but it felt great after hiking in the heat!

Puppy in the window CafayateEl porvenir Cafayate

After finding our way back to our car and going back to our hostel to change (and seeing a very cute doggy in the window!), we headed out to do some more wine tasting. We had some bad luck with the first few places we went to being closed so we almost gave up, but we ended up going to some great tasting rooms in town. We really loved how casual the Cafayate wine tasting scene was. Unlike much of Napa and Mendoza, most places had no problem with drop ins, and prices were extremely reasonable.

Cafayate steakChef at Cafayate parilla

We’d eaten dinner the previous two nights at the beautiful wine bar attached to our hostel, but on our last night in Cafayate we wanted to try out something different. I think there’s a rule that you can only go so many days in Argentina without having a steak, so we decided to check out the parilla that our hostel recommended. Cafayate is a pretty small and not particularly touristy place, but we definitely felt like we were off the beaten path when we finally arrived at this hole in the wall restaurant. We sat down at a plastic table on the sidewalk and proceeded to have a parilla experience that was lightyears away from any of the places we’d eaten at in Buenos Aires. There was no menu, so I walked up to the sweatpants-clad chef and asked him to bring him whatever he thought was good. As you can see in the picture above, his grill was built in to the side of the restaurant, so this was street meat at its finest. When our entrees arrived at our table, we both took one bite and confidently proclaimed that this was by far the best steak we’d ever had. Instead of our usual sirloin or rib eye, we’d been given bonier cuts, and the meat was so incredibly tender and flavourful that I was rendered speechless. My only regret was that we’d waited until our last night to go, so we wouldn’t be able to return. The whole experience just reaffirmed something I already knew about eating out. As much as I love eating at fancy, high end restaurants, sometimes the most amazing food comes from some guy slinging meat on the side of the road, or from a little nondescript hole in the wall.

Cafayate still stands out to me as one my favourite stops on our trip, and one of the places I’d most like to return to. With great wine, delicious steak, beautiful natural surroundings, and a laid back atmosphere, how could we not fall in love with this little town?

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Brunch Parties

Brunch Julia and ZeviBrunch saturday one

I love having people over, especially when there is food involved. Dinner parties are the classic choice, but lately I’ve hosted a couple of brunch get togethers and I’ve really loved having people over earlier in the day! They’re usually a bit more casual, no one’s worried about spending a ton of time on hair and make up because you’ve all just rolled out of bed, and there’s no need to worry about appetizers or dessert.

Brunch Saturday twoBrunch mango mint lassis

Here are a few things I’ve learned about hosting brunch that you might find helpful should you ever want to give it a try.

  • Do as much prep as possible the night before. When you’re crawling out of bed in the morning, you want to have as little as possible to do before your guests show up. Don’t leave yourself a ton of cooking to do in the morning before everyone shows up and you will feel much more relaxed! Last Saturday, I made these baked eggs, which I’d made with success in the past, and I was able to do everything other than cracking the eggs in to the dish and baking them on Friday night. I also made these potatoes, which are always a hit, and I boiled the potatoes the night before so I just had to smash them and bake them in the morning. I also cut up a bunch of the fruit for the fruit salad so that I only had a bit of chopping to do on the day of. Zevi and I made a delicious baked caramelized banana french toast a couple of weeks ago that we just had to pop in the oven in the morning, which made things a total breeze. You never know what will come up, or how may cocktails you’ll have the night before, so being extra prepared is the way to go.
  • Master your coffee making set up in advance. Coffee is pretty key to most peoples’ wake up routine, so it better be on point! We normally use a two shot stovetop espresso maker in the mornings but that wasn’t going to suffice for a group of six people, so I had to use our Chemex. We’ve had the thing for years, but I’ve barely used it, so I was frantically googling tutorials and watching youtube videos on Saturday morning. The coffee turned out ok, but I wish I’d done a couple of test runs with the Chemex to get the system down pat beforehand.
  • Make something you love, but don’t be too ambitious. Your friends are counting on you to provide their first meal of the day, so maybe don’t try out that amazing looking souffle you’ve never made before that has a high chance of failure. Brunch should be fun, and you don’t want to be stressed about things not working out on a weekend morning.
  • Make something that doesn’t need to be eaten immediately. Things get a little unpredictable on a Saturday morning. Sometimes alarms don’t go off, or hangovers are raging, or people are just a little slow to get themselves out the door. Whatever the reason, it’s highly likely that someone you invited won’t show up on time, so making something like that’s best eaten right as it’s finished cooking, like scrambled eggs, can prove problematic. You’ll have more success and feel less stress with something that’s still great after sitting for a few minutes.
  • Most of all, don’t sweat the small stuff. I tend to obsess over what I’m going to make when I’m having people over, whether it be for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but I try to remind myself that people really aren’t going to be that upset if their yolk isn’t perfectly runny or you burn a couple of potatoes. As long as you don’t give them food poisoning, your friends are going to be grateful for the opportunity to get together and chat above all else. Yes, it’s great to be mindful of the food you’re making, but in the end what you’re eating is secondary to the conversation.

The first meal of the day is often so rushed, so it’s fun to have the opportunity to sit down and eat something delicious in the morning. I’ve loved having people over for brunch recently, and I can’t wait to do it again soon!

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Morimoto Napa

Zevi in front of Morimoto fish wall

We ate a lot of great food when we were in Napa a couple of weeks ago, but the big standout for us was Morimoto Napa. Based on Morimoto’s title as Iron Chef and all of the fame and prestige that comes with that, we were afraid that the restaurant might be all style and no substance, but when we tasted the food we couldn’t have cared less whose name was on the front of the building.

Morimoto kitchen Morimoto Heather

Don’t get me wrong, though, the place has plenty of style. As we walked in, I was immediately captivated by the oversized fish mural. How can I get one of those for my kitchen? The dining room was polished and elegant, and the music was just at the right volume for good conversation. I loved peeking over at the brightly lit sushi bar to see an army of chefs working behind display cases filled with raw fish. There aren’t many sights more beautiful to me than giant slabs of raw salmon and tuna waiting to be turned into delicious sashimi.

Morimoto carpaccio

We were enticed by some of the creative main courses, but we decided to share a few of the smaller plates instead. I love to eat off of everyone’s plate so sharing is always right up my alley! We started with the meltingly tender waygu beef tartare, thin strips of beef brightened up with a sweet ginger-garlic sauce.

Morimoto sashimi

Next up was the most unexpected dish of the evening. We’d ordered the Morimoto sashimi, which was described as “seared toro, salmon, eel, tuna, hamachi, five sauces”. I’d expected the fish to be presented in the regular sashimi style, but I’d forgotten that we weren’t at my neighbourhood sushi joint (which I love, by the way). I was surprised and intrigued when the we were presented with the plate pictured above. The pieces of fish were layered one on top of the other, each with a different mini garnish, and accompanying them were droppers filled with the aforementioned five sauces. The server demonstrated how to put little drops of each sauce on to our plate and dip our fish towers in as we saw fit. I wouldn’t want to eat my sashimi like this every day, but I really appreciated the whimsical and creative presentation. Most importantly, the fish was delicious!

Morimoto fried rice Morimoto bone marrow

I’m a sucker for a runny yolk, and egg on top of our duck fried rice provided the perfect mix-in for this flavourful dish. While the fried rice was good, the bone marrow was a true standout. I’d been eager to try bone marrow for some time now, and I managed to get Zevi on board. We were both glad we’d jumped on that train! The marrow was silky smooth, and the spiced panko breadcrumbs cut its luscious richness just enough. We were still trying to scoop out more of that heavenly stuff even when we knew in our hearts that we’d eaten every last drop.

Morimoto sushi

When sushi’s on the menu there’s no way I won’t order at least a little bit of plain old raw fish. While this was the simplest thing we ate that night, it was probably my favourite. The fish was extremely fresh with a perfectly firm texture, and the rice was expertly prepared. In fact, it was so good that we ordered another round!

Morimoto dessert

After seeing how inventive our savoury courses had been, we were eager to check out what the chefs at Morimoto had up their sleeves on the sweet side of things. We ordered the “s’more”, and while this wasn’t your campfire special, when we ate all of the components together we could certainly identify one of our favourite summer treats. The presentation was gorgeous too, and there were no sticky hands in sight.

We were thoroughly impressed with Morimoto, and I would make a point to go back there if I return to Napa. It’s definitely a special occasion type of place, but if you’re looking for a high end meal in California’s wine country, it’s certainly worth checking out.

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Napa Valley – What We Ate

Addendum flowers

If you know me, you know that my main goal when I travel is to find and eat delicious food. The Napa Valley is wine country first and foremost, but all of those wine obsessed tourists bring a lot of money in with them which means that there are lots of world class restaurants to choose from. We barely scratched the surface of the dining scene when we were there, but we did eat some pretty delicious meals!

Ca'Momi cheeseboard Ca'Momi prosciutto and burrata Ca'Momi pizzas

The evening after our wine tour we got together with the rest of our group and went to Ca’Momi, an Italian restaurant in downtown Napa’s Oxbow Market. We sat on their covered patio which was perfect for a large group and plenty warm on a spring evening. Zevi and I had actually visited this place on our last trip to Napa, and the crust was as perfectly chewy and tender as I remembered. I’d filled up on too much free cheese and fruit at our bed and breakfast before heading out for dinner so I wasn’t able to enjoy as many of the appetizers as I would have liked to, but they looked great as well. The menu is huge, and there’s really something on there for everyone. To me, the crust is the defining element of a restaurant that claims to be making authentically italian pizza, and this was some of the best I’ve had outside of Italy.

Bouchon coffee and pastry

It’s hard to talk about food in the Napa Valley without renowned chef Thomas Keller’s name making its way in to the conversation. While we weren’t planning on making a trip to the highly touted French Laundry, I did want to sample some of his offerings, so we made a stop at Bouchon Bakery. Located in Yountville, or “Thomas Keller-ville”, as one shop employee in a nearby town jokingly called it, Bouchon is celebrated for its amazing pastries, breads, and other baked goods. We tried the monkey bread, and it was incredible. I was expecting more of a cinnamon bun type of dough, but it was actually almost as light and flaky as a croissant. The salted caramel glaze gave it amazing flavour, and every bite had me wishing I could try one of everything Bouchon had to offer.

Zevi at Solbar Duck bahn mi at Solbar Fish tacos at Solbar

We spent one day laying off the wine and driving to check out a few of the towns in the area. Solbar is part of the Solange Hotel in Calistoga, and we stopped there for lunch during our travels. The weather was sunny and gorgeous, so we sat on their beautiful patio and sampled their globally influenced fare. The duck in my bahn mi sandwich was extremely tender and juicy, and the cucumbers and jalapeños provided a great crunch, but the bread could have been better. The mango slaw on the side may have actually stolen the show – I loved the tart bite of the barely ripe fruit. The flavour (and the gorgeous plating!) of Zevi’s fish tacos was spot on, and I loved the pickled cabbage that accompanied them. It was a beautiful spot to grab a bite and wish just a little bit that we could sneak in to their pool and soak up some sun on such a gorgeous day.

Lunch at V.Sattui Lunch at V.Sattui

If you need some lunch during a busy day of wine tasting, or if you just need a little something in your stomach to soak up some of that vino, I would highly recommend heading to V.Sattui. Not only do they offer great wine and a top notch tasting experience, they also have a deli where you can buy delicious food to eat at picnic tables outside. It was hard to choose what to get from their dizzying selection of cheese, charcuterie, breads, salads, and warm entrees, but in the end we went with a baguette, a couple of cheeses, a golden beet salad, some truffle mac and cheese, and some prosciutto (just for me, of course). Everything was delicious, and we (Zevi) left feeling ready to make the drive back to town.

Addendum sign Addendum meal Addendum Heather

When I heard that Addendum, another Thomas Keller spot, was opening up for the season, I knew I didn’t want to leave the Napa Valley without paying it a visit. On our last day in the area, we made a stop in Yountville to try some fried chicken in a gorgeous garden setting. At Addendum, you get the choice of either fried chicken, pulled pork, or pork ribs, plus whatever two sides they are serving that day. As tempted as I was to go for the pork, after reading many rave reviews of the chicken I just had to try it, and I knew that stealing a bite of Zevi’s wouldn’t suffice. After ordering from a little shack in the back, we sat down at a table with our sides, which that day were a macaroni and a beet salad. I knew I’d enjoy the beets, but I’m normally not a fan of mayo based pasta salads so I was surprised by how much I loved Addendum’s version! The fried chicken was even better than advertised, with ultra crunchy skin and tender, juicy meat. The flaky salt and rosemary sprinkled on top made it extra flavourful, and Zevi and I agreed that it was some of our favourite fried chicken ever.

I love the opportunity to try amazing wine in the Napa Valley, but the food scene is another great reason to head there. Among all of these great meals, I didn’t even talk about our favourite, which was at Morimoto, bus since this post is plennnnty long I’m going to save that for another day.

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Celebrating My Grandma

Grandma's 91st birthday

This week we’ve been celebrating my Grandma’s birthday. This picture is actually from last year, but she’s now officially 92 years young. She’s a St. Patrick’s day baby, so on Tuesday I made homemade macaroni and cheese and salad at my parents’ house and my sister made a delicious cake and we celebrated. I’d take hanging out with my Grandma over drinking green beer any day! Today we had another celebration with even more members of my Dad’s large extended family. When you’ve lived more than nine decades, every birthday deserves some extra fanfare.

My Grandma didn’t go to high school, but she’s taught me so much about life. When my Grandpa had a stroke, losing the ability to speak and walk, my Grandma showed incredible dedication to him, visiting him many times a week for the eight years that he lived in a nursing home. She doesn’t drive, so she had to take the bus there or rely on rides from her family members, but I never heard her complain. She showers her family with love, and her children have passed down that love to their children, and, in some cases, even their children’s children. Through good times and bad, she remains that calming, positive, and supportive voice, always wanting to know what’s going on in our lives. Even if she may not have chosen our path for herself, she’s always excited to hear about what we’re up to, as long as we promise her to be careful, of course.

It really moved me to see my Grandma stand among some of her family and tell us all how proud she is of us. Without her, none of us would have been standing in that kitchen in a circle holding hands. She brought us all together, and I wouldn’t exist were it not for one of the children she brought into the world. She may not have travelled the world or pursued any kind of higher education, but on her 92nd birthday, I don’t know that anything meant more to her than being surrounded by her family. I’m grateful to her for showing me the power of unconditional love, and helping me to remember that sometimes it’s the little things in life that are most important. I’d like to think that I inherited just a little bit of her soft spoken kindness, and I hope that small part of her lives on in me forever.

Our Napa Getaway

Napa convertible riding

We’re not usually the spontaneous types, but a couple of weeks ago we decided to take a last minute trip. We considered a few different destinations, but in the end we agreed on Napa. Ever since we got engaged there almost four years ago we’d been talking about going back for more wine and sunshine, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to head down. In 2011 we’d gone down in scorchingly hot July, but this time we got some pretty ideal March temperatures, and the crowds were minimal too.

Churchill Manor

Churchill Manor flowersChurchill manor breakfasts

Once we decided on Napa as our destination, we knew right away where we wanted to stay at the same place we’d stayed on our previous trip. Churchill Manor is a beautiful bed and breakfast just steps from the downtown area. We had fond memories of the place from our last time there, and it may have been even better this time around. The staff are great, and we made sure to take advantage of the free wine and snacks this time around (when in Napa…). One of the main reasons we wanted to stay there again were the breakfasts (let’s be honest, we’re always in it for the food). Every morning we were greeted with pastries, and a beautiful fruit course. Then we got a choice between a sweet or a savoury entree. Predictably, I chose the savoury option every morning and Zevi went with the sweet choice, but I have to admit, the baked french toast was the best thing we had all week.

Selfie at Bounty Hunter Bounty Hunter

One of the things we really wanted to do on our return trip to Napa was head back to the bar where we got engaged. We may have had a few glasses of wine on the day Zevi proposed so we hadn’t gotten any good pictures of us there. It was really fun to revisit the place where I’d cried over a free glass of champagne from our waitress after such a big life event.

Dutch Henry Winery Dutch Henry Cave Tudall Wine Tasting Cairdean tasting Platypus tours group shot

Driving between wine tastings can get a little dicey, so we decided to do a group tour one day. We were so glad we did! We went with Platypus Tours, and we couldn’t have been happier with the experience. The four wineries we went to all provided us with great information and generous amounts of wine, and our driver did a great job of keeping things upbeat. We lucked out and met three great couples on the tour – one of them was even from Calgary! We got along so well that we ended up meeting up for dinner afterwards which was really fun.

Mustang Napa flowers Napa Zevi wine tasting Napa Heather wine tasting

We spent the rest of our time enjoying the beautiful sunny weather in our red mustang convertible, visiting the neighbouring towns, tasting more great wine, and eating delicious food, which I’ll talk about more in a later post. Napa will always hold a special place in our hearts, and we were really lucky to get to spend a few days down there, especially right before Zevi started his new seven days on/seven days off work schedule. I’m sure it won’t be our last visit to Northern California wine country.

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My Five: Favourite Albums Right Now

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you’ve got some exciting things in store for the weekend. Since I am currently unemployed every day is pretty much a weekend, but Friday and Saturday seem to be when everyone else is in the mood to have fun, so they’re still exciting for me ;).

I always like hearing about what other people are in to, so I thought it would be fun to talk about some of my favourites from time to time. So today, let’s talk about five albums I’m really enjoying right now. Some of these are new and some have been out for a while, but they’ve all been getting quite a bit of play recently.

1. Let’s Be Ready – The Wooden Sky

I still love this Ontario band’s 2008 release If I Don’t Come Home You Know I’m Gone, and Let’s Be Ready is another home run. Lead singer Gavin Gardiner’s voice keeps its rough growl, and the songs retain their folky charm, but the addition of some heavier electric guitar kicks things up a notch.

Favourite Track: Our Hearts Were Young

2. In The Lonely Hour – Sam Smith

This guy’s one of the most popular artists out there these days, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m firmly on the bandwagon. Sam Smith’s warbly falsetto get’s me every time. Whether you’re in the mood for a dance party or you want to wallow in sadness over your failed relationship, there’s a little something here for every occasion. This is without a doubt my most listened to album over the last six-plus months. I just can’t quit!

Favourite Track(s): Restart and Make It To Me (because there’s no way I could pick just one)

3. The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty Soundtrack – Various Artists

I heard some of the songs from this soundtrack through Google Play Music radio (my favourite way to discover new music these days) and I was inspired to check out the entire album. I’m usually not one to seek out soundtracks, and I haven’t even seen the movie, but this one is top notch. Featuring some artists I was already a fan of (Bahamas, Jose Gonzalez) and some that were new to me (Rogue Wave, Rogue Valley), this is the perfect thing to listen to on a relaxing Sunday morning.

Favourite Track: Stay Alive by Jose Gonzalez

4. High Noon – Arkells

This Hamilton group has been a favourite of mine for a while, and I’m glad to see that everyone else is catching on to their infectious pop-rock sounds.  High Noon retains the band’s driving enthusiasm and provides more catchy hooks than ever.

Favourite Track: Leather Jacket (I’ve listened to this song more than any other in the past few months)

5. Club Meds – Dan Mangan and Blacksmith

Dan Mangan lost me a little bit with his 2011 release, but 2015’s Club Meds has once again made me a believer. Brooding and dark, but very listenable, Dan’s earnest growl draws me in and the unique instrumentation and fuzzy guitars keeps me interested.

Favourite Track: Offred

So that’s what’s in heavy rotation for me right now. Are you listening to anything good these days? I’d love to know!

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Live Curling Action at the 2015 Brier

The Brier - Cheers

I can’t explain how it happened, but some time during my high school years I got pretty into curling. That interest quickly grew in to a full-blown obsession, and before long I was watching every draw of the Scotties and the Brier and checking box scores and stats online when I wasn’t near a TV. This is especially strange since the only curling I’ve ever done was in a couple of very recreational bonspiels where there may have been more drinking of beers than throwing of rocks but nonetheless, I’ve looked forward to the late February/early March Season of Champions for many years. I was especially excited about the national men’s curling championship this year as it would be taking place at Calgary’s very own Saddledome!

Brier Ice view

Brier ice sheets

My uncle was given a bunch of tickets by a friend and was generous enough to donate some to me. The seats were in the 11th row, and I couldn’t help but think about how great a spot it would have been for a Flames game, but seeing some high level curling action from only a few rows up was pretty awesome too. I watch a lot of curling on TV, but I don’t think you can get a true appreciation of how much precision and accuracy these guys are throwing with unless you’re watching live. With four games going there was almost always something happening, and we often felt like our heads were spinning trying to figure out which sheet to watch! I did miss the commentary and the strategy talk you get to listen to when you watch on TSN, though.

Brier with Stephen Brier popcornBrier Heather and Julia selfie

There aren’t a lot of people younger than my Grandma that get as excited about curling as I do, but each of my siblings was nice enough to come along with me to one of the draws I had tickets for. I think they ended up having a pretty good time! Julia decided that drinking Saddledome beer through a straw was the way to go, and it definitely proved to be a good spill preventing strategy. I wanted to check out the Patch, the much-talked-about Brier bar, so Julia and I headed over there after our afternoon draw. We weren’t in much of a partying mood that day, so we stayed just long enough to see some giant Jenga and hear a girl sing Shania Twain karaoke.

It was a lot of fun watching really fit guys (seriously, have you seen how ripped some of them are?) throw around some heavy granite. The highlight was being only metres away from Brad Gushue’s mind-blowing shot that was probably the best of the tournament. Even though it was against the hometown team, the crowd went wild. Seeing something like that live is pretty special!

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First Impressions: Monogram Coffee

Monogram Coffee Julia holding cup

When I heard that Jeremy Ho and Ben Put were gearing up to launch a new coffee project in Calgary, I was excited. Both have been crowned Canadian Barista Champion, and, along with Monogram Coffee‘s third cofounder Justin Eyford, they have extensive experience working at Phil and Sebastian, one of my long-time Calgary favourites. Zevi and I took a coffee brewing methods class with Jeremy a couple of years ago, so we got to experience his amazingly in depth coffee knowledge first-hand. I couldn’t wait to see what these pros would bring to our city’s burgeoning coffee scene.Monogram Coffee DaDe Gallery

Monogram’s first venture was a little coffee bar in a corner of Inglewood’s DaDe Gallery. They opened in time to take advantage of the holiday hustle and bustle and get their name out there before their Altadore cafe was ready to go. I was eager to check them out when we got home from South America so I stopped in during a Christmas shopping mission. The coffee was just as good as I expected, and I loved the excuse to check out a quirky art gallery that I normally just walk by. It sounds like they’ve found a great home in Inglewood and are planning on keeping their spot in DaDe Gallery for the foreseeable future. Inglewood coffee lovers rejoice!

Monogram Coffee cafe interior Monogram Coffee cafe vignetteMonogram Coffee bags

After much anticipation, Julia and I checked out Monogram’s new Altadore cafe this morning. This is their first week open, but there was no shortage of excited caffeine addicts flowing through the door. Nestled between a liquor store and a convenience store in a small strip mall in the south Calgary community of Altadore, you’d risk missing it if you blinked on your drive by. Seating in the cafe is limited, but what they do have is beautiful – a rustic wooden bench sits in the front corner and a communal table cuts the room in half. Its small size means it’s probably not somewhere I’d go if I wanted to sit and do work for a couple of hours, but it makes for a very intimate setting with excellent service. The candy coloured bags of beans and soft blue pendant lights add a colourful pop to the white walls and ceiling.

Monogram Coffee cappucino Monogram Coffee Julia holding cup 2

Of course, what really matters is the coffee, and my cappuccino was spot on. Smooth and rich but not too milky, my drink was made just the way I like it, and that’s what will keep me coming back for more. The friendliness of the staff certainly doesn’t hurt either. We chatted with Jeremy for a few minutes on our way out, and he told us that they hoped to make high end coffee more approachable, which is what prompted them go in a “cute” direction with their coffee bean bag and to go cup designs. Whatever the reason, it’s working for me, and I kind of want all of the Monogram-branded things, including one of their beautiful handle-less ceramic mugs. Don’t you?

Monogram Coffee

4814 16 St. S.W.

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