Category Archives: Calgary

My Calgary: Pigeonhole

Eating at a hyped up restaurant can be dangerous. When an eatery comes highly recommended by trusted friends or has been given prestigious awards, it’s easy to come in with sky-high expectations and be disappointed when the food doesn’t quite measure up. I’d eaten at Pigeonhole prior to its Air Canada Best New Restaurant win, but last week was Zevi’s first time at the restaurant, and we were counting on a meal worthy of a big winner! Spoiler alert: it lived up to our expectations and then some! 

Pigeonhole scored points with me before I even walked in to the restaurant because of their small-plates format. Choosing what to eat at a restaurant is always an incredibly agonizing ordeal for me, so what could be better than getting to sample five dishes instead of just one! Even with the opportunity to choose multiple dishes, though, Zevi and I had a pretty hard time picking just five plates to share. The menu is divided into vegetables, meat, seafood, seasonal, and dessert categories, and we were tempted by so many of the offerings from each section.

 After we’d come to a hard-won consensus, we were presented with our first two dishes. The lamb tartare and tuna crudo, much like the other dishes we’d eat through the course of the evening, came out on adorable mismatched saucers that looked like they’d been stolen from my grandmother’s china cabinet (or maybe a hipster’s apartment ;). My enthusiasm for the plates was soon forgotten as I took my first bite of silky raw tuna with bright radish and the perfect crunchy pop of crispy puffed rice. Slathered on crusty bread oozing with burnt onion butter, the lamb was gone in a flash. If Pigeonhole started selling that burnt onion butter my toast would be dripping with it every day of the week!

Things only got better as our next three dishes made their appearance. Pillowy ricotta and spinach dumplings begged to be broken open and dunked in their lucious mushroom sauce. Every bite of halloumi was both soft and chewy, its saltiness perfectly complimented by mini bites of beet and caper. Zevi and I consider ourselves semipro-level halloumi connoisseurs, and we’ve never made any that’s close to as good as Pigeonhole’s. The flank steak, cooked to medium rare perfection, absolutely blew our minds and made us question everything we knew about cooking beef. Each thinly sliced piece all but melted in my mouth, and I’d be hard pressed to think of a more expertly prepared steak.
The memory of that juicy beef singing on my tongue would have been more than enough to keep me smiling for the rest of the night, but my dessert-loving husband was pretty keen on trying something from the sweet side of the menu. Zevi’s a diehard chocolate guy, so I knew we’d be going with the chocolate pot-de-creme. Rich, dark, and not too sweet, the creme-filled teacup was everything I love in a chocolate indulgence, and the perfect way to end a delicious evening. 

Pigeonhole is not only the best new restaurant in Canada, it’s one of my all-time favourite restaurants in Calgary, and I don’t give out that kind of praise lightly! If you love to share delicious food as much as I do, you should definitely check out this 17th avenue spot. Just save a little flank steak for me, ok?  

Spring Sunshine

spring sunshine

As the days turn warmer, you can almost hear the city breathing a collective sigh of relief. Even though our winter this year wasn’t all that harsh, there were still enough days where we had to bundle up in huge puffy coats and mitts and hats and scarves to make us long for the season to change. In winter we hurry from one place to another, clutching our hoods tightly around our faces to block out the cold winds and barely slowing down for a glance at the person passing us on the sidewalk. We forgo nights out with friends in favour of staying warm and cozy on the couch in the comfort of our homes. The long hours of cold and darkness bring out the hermit in most of us.

As much as I love to get out to the mountains to ski and snowshoe, I’m never sad when I see winter coming to an end. Spring brings the promise of so many good things. As the sun gets stronger, I start to feel that the days of music festivals, boat rides, camping trips, and backyard barbecues with friends are not so far off. I can almost taste that cold Corona with a little hint of lime and feel the warm grass on the soles of my bare feet. I can imagine that feeling of complete freedom as I plunge into the chilly lake water for my first swim of the season and then let the sun coax every drop of water off of my browning back. I can feel my shoulders relax as my body begins to realize that it no longer needs to steel itself against the biting chill.

Spring sunshine doesn’t pack the same punch as its summer counterpart. Instead, it gently whispers of things to come. As the first buds start to appear on our leafless trees and the first flowers poke their heads out, I feel so much excitement for the upcoming season. I’ve always been a lake-swimming, sandal-sporting summer girl, and this late March sunshine on my shoulders lets me know that my favourite season isn’t too far away.

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My Calgary: OEB

OEB eggs benedict

I still remember the first time Zevi and I visited OEB. We tried to go to a well known breakfast joint down the street, but since there was such a huge line up we decided to take a chance on a little spot that had just opened a few doors down. It may have been the one and only Saturday in its existence when we could just walk right in and get a table! I was instantly impressed, and had a feeling that that it would become a favourite.

Let’s be honest, the last thing I really want is for OEB to gain more popularity. There are already hordes of people spilling out the doors on weekend mornings, and even on a weekday you’ll probably have to wait a few minutes to score a seat. As much as I’d love to keep it to myself, though, there’s no way I could talk about my favourite spots in Calgary without mentioning this gem.

The number one thing everyone mentions when they talk about OEB are those potatoes. And man are they some incredible potatoes – the best ones in Calgary in my books. If a french fry and a hash brown made sweet sweet love, OEB’s breakfast potatoes would be their offspring. The wedges of potato are fried to crispy perfection, and seasoned with just enough special spices to make you wonder exactly what they sprinkled on there to make them so addictive. Anyone who doesn’t order these in some form gets a serious side eye from me. Zevi’s lucky I let him steal some of mine ;).

OEB Duck PoutineOEB soul in a bowl

OEB has a mind-bogglingly expansive menu, so basically any breakfast items you can think of, and some you’ve never dreamed of, are there for the taking. From crepes to eggs to toast of all kinds, it’s on the menu. I often find myself gravitating towards the “Box’d” section of the menu, which features some wildly creative, and, more importantly, wildly delicious breakfast poutines made with those delicious potatoes. You really can’t go wrong with melty, squeaky curds and crispy spuds, topped with bacon, duck, or even fois gras. They’re pretty much breakfast perfection in a cute little take out box, and so easy to take home to snack on later if you can’t digest all of those saucy carbs in one go.

OEB Zevi

If you’re looking for the best breakfast in Calgary, I know many people will agree with me when I say you’ll find it at OEB. You might have to wait a while to get in on a weekend, but now that they’re using the NoWait app, you can put your name down in the comfort of your own home and just wait for the text saying your table is ready. There’s pretty much nothing stopping you from stopping in now! Just save some potatoes for me, ok?

OEB

824 Edmonton Trail NE

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Hiking Lady McDonald

Lady McDonald - Heather, Adelle, Caleigh

For her birthday, a friend of ours invited us to go for a hike up Lady McDonald, and Zevi and I jumped at the chance to get out to the mountains. Located just North of Canmore, the hike is a quick trip from Calgary. Thirteen of us gathered at the bottom of the trail and started making our way to the summit. It was a gorgeous blue sky day, and not even an accidental wrong turn could dampen our spirits!

Lady McDonald start Lady McDonald Zevi Lady McDonald Heather Adelle Lady McDonald mountain view Lady McDonald rocks

The way up was a pretty steep slog, with barely any flats or downhills to be found on the trip to the top. The trail was well marked, though, and although we had to navigate through a few rocky sections, I never felt unsafe or unsure of my footing. I’d worn a tank top under my long sleeved shirt not really expecting to strip down to just that layer, but on the first half of the hike the sun was so strong that I was actually sweating in my sleeveless shirt! Definitely not the weather I’d normally expect to find in the mountains in March.

Lady McDonald treesLady McDonald summit Lady McDonald summit 2 Lady McDonald summit Heather Lady McDonald inukshuk

Once we got nearer to the summit, things started to feel a bit more like early spring. The wind picked up, the clouds rolled in, and we started to see a few more patches of snow. There was still far less snow than I’d generally expect to see at this time of year, though. One of the great things about this hike is that you get to see gorgeous views all the way up, which erased any disappointment of not making it it to the actual summit. We were told that it was a fairly challenging scramble to get there, and that with the frigid wind howling the way it was it was pretty unrealistic to take that on. I was pretty happy with what we’d accomplished, and although I didn’t run up and down the mountain twice like one of our friends did, my legs were definitely burning by the end.

Crazyweed group shot Crazyweed wings Crazyweed steak Crazyweed ribs

We capped off the day by stuffing our tired faces with delicious food at Crazyweed. There aren’t many better ways to spend a Sunday than enjoying fresh mountain air and a great meal with friends!

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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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First Impressions: The Nash

The Nash

There have been lots of new restaurants popping up in Calgary lately, but there was one that I was particularly eager to try. Located in what was formerly the historic National Hotel in the heart of Inglewood, The Nash is the latest project of Chef Michael Noble. Having enjoyed the food and ambience at the critically acclaimed NOtaBLE, Noble’s other venture, I was looking forward to finding out if The Nash would live up to my lofty expectations.

The Nash Interior The Nash interior

Zevi at the Nash

It only took me a few minutes before I’d fallen in love with the space. The Nash’s main dining room area is bright but warm and feels cozy while still remaining modern. Little touches like the stacked wood beside the kitchen and the antlers hanging over the fireplace add to the rustic feel, and banish any possible feelings of stuffiness at this upscale establishment. If you want a front row seat to the action, sit at the bar, where you’ll get an up-close view of the hustle and bustle in the bright, open kitchen. The acoustics are great (read: not too loud), so it’s an ideal spot for a quiet date night conversation or a rendezvous with Grandma.

The Nash - Octopus

Based on some emphatic recommendations from friends who had already paid a visit to the restaurant, I went for the Charred Pacific Octopus as my starter. Accompanied by thinly sliced chorizo and a silky avocado cream, this was the most tender octopus I’ve ever tasted. While this sea creature can sometimes be rubbery and chewy, there was no hint of that unwanted texture in this delicious preparation. The spice on the charred exterior was subtle, and the little pearls of citrus provided a welcomed bright contrast. I was impressed! Zevi chose the Brown Butter Glazed Gnochetti, and the warm winter-spiced flavours of the mini pasta pillows had us equally pleased. I didn’t manage to snap a good photo of this one, because sometimes your date doesn’t appreciate it when you spend all night fiddling with your camera ;).

The Nash - BeefThe Nash - Duck

After all but licking our appetizer plates we were excited for our mains to arrive, and they certainly delivered. Zevi’s chocolate-braised bison short ribs were meltingly tender and the accompanying celeriac puree was super flavourful. We did find ourselves wishing for a bit more textural contrast, though, and I found the chocolate flavour to be a little too bitter. There was nothing to criticize when it came to my roasted duck breast though – this was absolutely the star of the show. The duck was cooked perfectly, the velvety pain perdu was divine, and the bing cherry sauce was the ideal compliment to the meat. The beet macarons were light and airy, and added a creative and whimsical feel to the dish. I feel confident in saying that this was the best duck I’ve ever had and one of the best plates of food I’ve eaten, period.

The Nash - dessert

From one innovative dish to another, our server was spot on when he told us to forget everything we knew when it came to dessert. With one look at the menu I knew what Zevi would lobby for, and I was happy to indulge him and try the dark chocolate with cotton candy and hay ice cream. It really was like no dessert I’d ever tasted. The bitterness of the chocolate was expertly balanced by the cotton candy, which was sweet but nothing like what you’d get at the Stampede. You don’t see hay ice cream on a restaurant menu every day, but subtle sweetness of The Nash’s iteration assured me that there was no need to be afraid.

The Nash - Postcard

The service, atmosphere, and, most importantly, the food were top notch during our first visit to Inglewood’s newest hot spot. I know it’ll take a while for me to stop daydreaming about that incredible duck! It’s not somewhere we could go every week without some complaints from our wallets, but it’s great for a special occasion dinner or those nights when you want to treat yourself. I’ll be back soon to check out the adjoining Off Cut Bar for some cocktails and try their tempting, and significantly less pricey, brunch menu.

Nash Restaurant & Off Cut Bar on Urbanspoon

My Calgary: Village Ice Cream

Calgary’s got so many great places to eat and things to see, and I think they deserve some love. In this series, I’m going to talk about the places that I think make Calgary such a great place to be.

Village Ice Cream Britannia cone

When people ask me where my favourite place is for brunch, lunch or dinner, I’m hard pressed to find a definitive answer. When it comes to my favourite ice cream shop, though, I don’t hesitate. Village Ice Cream has been wowing me with their creamy, dreamy creations since they opened in 2012, and I’m a certified addict. I’ve eaten my fair share of ice cream in Calgary and beyond, and in my heart there’s nothing that comes close to this little establishment.

Night view from Village Ice CreamVillage Ice Cream Britannia

Dreamed up by Billy Friley while eating ice cream on his grandmother’s porch, Village Ice Cream has become a Calgary favourite, despite opening in a location that most would deem unfortunate. Their original Victoria Park locale is tucked into a building on Tenth Avenue SE that gets very little foot traffic, so the fact that you can often find a lineup out the door shows that I’m not the only one urging all of my friends to check it out. Not only have they managed to keep their head above water, they’ve had enough success to warrant opening another location, this one in Britannia Plaza. While the Victoria Park store has just enough space for the ice cream scooping station and a fridge full of pints and sandwiches, the Britannia spot has some indoor seating for those thirty below zero days when your ice cream craving won’t quit.

Village Ice Cream Britannia inside

An ice cream shop has to be serving some pretty extraordinary stuff to entice me to make a special trip instead of reaching in to the freezer at my local grocery store, and Village delivers in a big way. Their scoops are the creamiest I’ve tasted by a long shot, with no loathsome ice crystals to be found. The ice cream beyond decadent, which is just how an indulgent treat should be. They’ve got ten consistent flavours, ranging from the standard Vanilla Bean, Chocolate, and Strawberry, to the exotic Cardamom, the subtle Earl Grey Tea, and the salty sweet favourite Salted Caramel. My standby is Toasted Coconut – its not-too-sweet tropical-tinged flavour and chewy coconut chunks have me hard pressed to stray away.  Some of my most beloved choices have come from Village’s rotating slate of seasonal flavours, including the sweet and tart Meyer Lemon, the bright Key Lime Coconut Milk, and my unexpected all time favourite, Spiced Banana. I know that might sound like a strange flavour – it certainly did to me at first – but one taste of the sweet banana mellowed out by warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg will make you a believer.They constantly surprise me with their interesting concoctions, and the fact that they let their customers try as many samples as they want means that I never have to wonder what I might be missing out on.

Village Ice Cream Britannia pints

If you’re not in the mood for a scoop or two on one of Village’s perfectly chewy homemade waffle cones, try one of their out-of-this-world ice cream sandwiches. The cookies are sinfully chocolaty, almost veering in to brownie territory, and make the ice cream inside even more delectable. These things put my old favourite Oreo ice cream sandwiches to shame.

Village Ice Cream - Heather and Zevi 2

I’ve always been an ice cream lover, but Village Ice Cream has brought my infatuation to a new level. Even on the coldest days of Calgary’s winter, you’ll find me venturing out for a split single on a waffle cone. No matter what the weather, it’s worth checking out one of their shops for a sweet treat that will have your tastebuds begging for more.

Village Ice Cream

431 10 Avenue SE and 820 49 Avenue SW

My Calgary: Blue Star Diner

Calgary’s got so many great places to eat and things to see, and I think they deserve some love. In this series, I’m going to talk about the places that I think make Calgary such a great place to be.Blue Star

Take a drive down the main drag of Calgary’s trendy Bridgeland neighbourhood on a weekend morning, and you’ll most certainly see a group of brunch lovers waiting for a table at a little whitewashed cafe. While it isn’t as miniature as its sister restaurant, Dairy Lane, Blue Star Diner‘s cozy interior isn’t big enough to accommodate the ten AM Saturday crowd that shows up in search of the restaurant’s delicious fare. As these patient diners know, though, the wait is well worth it.

Blue Star Diner bar

Blue Star Diner Mom and Grandma

While I’ve happily waited my turn on lazy mornings in the past, my most recent trip to the diner was on a Thursday at lunch time. After a few minutes of admiring the beautiful robin’s egg blue-backed open shelving behind the bar as we waited for a larger table to free up, we were seated by the window, which was perfect for both people watching and for getting that all-important natural light for food photos (kidding…sort of).

Blue Star Diner yam fries

To get the meal started, we ordered a bowl of yam fries to share. I don’t know what kind of magic they work on the potatoes before they put them in the fryer, but they managed to achieve the much sought after combination of a light, crunchy outside and a silky-soft interior. My Grandma declared them the best yam fries she’d ever tasted, and when someone’s made 92 trips around the sun their opinion shouldn’t be taken lightly!

Blue Star Diner Pulled Pork Hash Blue Star Diner grilled cheese

We may have officially been there for lunch, but that wasn’t going to stop me from ordering from the breakfast menu. Who says that delicious breakfast foods should be reserved for early in the morning? My pulled pork hash was subtly spiced and full of tender peppers and creamy yams, and the pork was perfectly juicy and shreddable with the touch of a fork. The runny yolks from the poached eggs were a delicious mix-in, and the thick cornbread sticks provided the perfect vehicle for soaking up extra sauce. Everyone else gave rave reviews for their dishes as well, with the only niggle being a few too many onions on my dad’s grilled cheese.

Blue Star obviously shines in the early hours of the day, but they shouldn’t be overlooked for dinner. They make a mean traditional margarita, one of my favourite drinks, and I’ve had to restrain myself from scooping up the last bits of their guacamole with my fingers. They’ve got burgers ranging from beef, to chicken, to lamb, to veggie, and they’re all top notch. I’m always tempted by their tacos, but have yet to pull the trigger. Something to look forward to for my next visit!

Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, or burgers you’re after, Blue Star Diner is a great Calgary choice. I could go for one of those margaritas right about now…

Blue Star Diner

801 1st Ave NE

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2014 in Review

Gray GlacierChile camping  Easter Island cemetary Zevi road trip Machu Picchu Cartagena after the rain 2014 is in the rear view mirror. What a year. I think it’s pretty obvious that this will be remembered as the year I quit my job and left on a three month trip to South America. You don’t do that every year, as much as I’d love to, and it’s not something we’ll be doing again any time soon. I feel so grateful that we were able to make it work. Although it’s something that I’d thought about and wanted to do for a long time, I always had my doubts that it would actually happen. There were a lot of factors that had to come together for us to be able to leave for that long, and it still seems amazing to me that we pulled it off. Mexico Cherniawsky's at Sea Cider Erin and Nai in Drumheller Calgary skyline

Snowshoeing with Kyle and NaiThe other nine months of the year may have been overshadowed by the main event, but they were certainly no slouch. We travelled to Mexico, Sasquatch music festival, Panorama, the Shuswap, and Victoria twice. We saw a couple of our best friends get married and celebrated the elopement of two more of our closest pals. We went on our annual Drumheller camping trip, and enjoyed great music and good vibes at Calgary Folk Fest. Family selfieFolk fest selfieBachelorette selfieSasquatch selfie I ran my fifth half marathon, but didn’t get the result I wanted so I’ll be back for redemption this year. I got to spend a ton of time with my sister over the summer, which was so much fun. I ate at countless new restaurants, revisited old favourites, and went to some iteration of my very favourite, Anju, four times in three weeks. I learned that choosing compassion is never wrong, even in moments of confusion and hurt. Many selfies were taken along the way. We won’t be doing much jetsetting in 2015, but I’m excited to see what adventures we find closer to home this year. Don’t worry, there will still be plenty of selfies.

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