Category Archives: First Impressions

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