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Alberta

The Best of Edmonton’s Food Scene

Nineteen-Ahi-Tuna-Twists

The Ahi Tuna Twists at Nineteen.

Over the past few years, Edmonton’s food scene has been rejuvenated with new hot spots serving incredible possibilities beyond the usual steak and potatoes: artisan pastries, gourmet and locally sourced dishes, beautiful brunch specialties, craft cocktails, and more. Though these modern and internationally renowned restaurants may astonish (and please) return visitors to the city who were unaware of the city’s burgeoning food scene, it’s no surprise to Vinod Varshney, Program Chair of NAIT’s Culinary Arts, and the culinary teams he’s been coaching and winning international competitions with over the years.

Since 2004, the team has earned dozens of medals at competitions in Erfurt, Dubai, Singapore, and other culinary hubs in the world. “The proof is in the pudding,” quips Varshney, “when [Culinary Team NAIT] can compete against the best in the world and still come back with medals.” At the 2013 Hong Kong International Culinary Classic, Culinary Team NAIT took home 20 medals in total, setting a record for most medals awarded to a team at the competition!

Why have Edmonton and its chefs seen so much success on the world stage? Varshney offers a simple answer that comes down to the qualities required of a great chef: a dedicated practice, good attitude, creativity, and time-management skills. “These students do a lot of practicing,” says Varshney. “When there is a will, there’s a way. These students are hungry and very eager to learn.”

For someone who’s experienced so much recognition for his leadership and tasted cuisines from around the world, Varshney still finds many reasons to admire the chefs and restaurants in Edmonton. Among his recommendations are the contemporary regional dishes of Larry Stewart at Hardware Grill, the Indian delights of Deependra Singh at Guru Fine Indian Cuisine, and the unique and delectable creations of Frank Olson at Canteen.

Champion Chefs
The appeal of Edmonton’s food scene will continue to intrigue travellers from around the world, and you don’t have to follow the teams to competitions to taste some of their appealing dishes. To start your mouth watering, review this list of the award-winning chefs and restaurants in the city receiving national and international acclaim:

Daniel Costa
10th on enRoute’s 2011 list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants | Eat his work at Corso 32

Andrew Fung
Former Culinary Team NAIT member | Eat his work at Nineteen

Eric Hanson
2016 Edmonton Gold Metal Plates Winner | Eat his work at Prairie Noodle Shop

Blair Lebsack
4th on enRoute’s 2014 list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants | Eat his work at RGE RD

Jacob Pelletier
Former Culinary Team NAIT member & medal winner | Eat his work at Duchess Bake Shop

Lindsay Porter
2016 Canadian Food Champion in Steak | Eat her work at Woodwork

Shelley Robinson
Winner on Season One of Food Network’s Chopped Canada | Eat her work at Atlas Steak + Fish

Jan Trittenbach
2015 Edmonton Gold Metal Plates Winner | Eat his work at Solstice Seasonal Cuisine

Ask the Expert: Les Clefs d’Or Corner (January/February 2017)

Nella-Blog

Photo by Jamie Tweedy of Tweedy Studios.

We asked Edmonton expert and Les Clefs d’Or Nella Mirante at The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald for her advice about celebrating the new year and winter in the city!

1. Where do you send guests when they want a healthy meal?
Noorish Conscious Eatery features a menu that includes a variety of organic, local, raw, vegan, and gluten-free options bursting with flavour and nutrition! I highly recommend their handcrafted elixir Matcha Messiah, which is loaded with vitality.

2. Where can we escape the cold?
When I think of escaping the cold, I think of the Confederation Lounge at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. The warmth of the lounge, the panoramic windows with views of our river valley and gardens, and the roaring fire are sure to keep you warm!

3. What is the perfect Edmonton gift for Valentine’s Day?
For Valentine’s Day, your only stop will be Sweet Lollapalooza! They carry perfectly handcrafted artisan chocolates with modern flavours. You will be tempted to sample a few of their creations yourself!

4. Are there any festivals or events that you are excited about?
One of my favourite winter festivals is Ice on Whyte, as there is something new to experience every day! Run, play, slide down the giant ice slide, be amazed by a professional ice carver, learn to create your own ice carving, meet ordinary people from our past, treat your ears to live music, or savour a hot beverage or craft beer.

Les Clefs d’Or Concierges have been opening doors for hotel guests in Canada since 1976, and today there are more than 150 members from coast to coast and more than 3,500 members worldwide! You can find Nella at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald.

Feel the Beat at STOMP

Stomp-Photo-by-Steve-McNicholas

Photo by Steve McNicholas

You know you are in for an explosive, electrifying show when the eight members of STOMP hit the stage! This international sensation creates music, rhythm, and humour with commonplace items you would use every day, like lighters, brooms, garbage cans, inner tubes, and hubcaps. Since it was created in England in 1991, the show has garnered multiple awards, rave reviews, and has appeared on numerous television shows worldwide! Buy your tickets here. —Lindsay Shapka

STOMP | January 10 & 11
Jubilee Auditorium | 11455-87 Ave. | 1-866-540-7469

WHERE Edmonton’s 2016 Best New Restaurant: Uccellino

Uccellino_Photo-by-Jamie-Tweedy

Photo by Jamie Tweedy of Tweedy Studios.

Local Chef Daniel Costa’s third restaurant, this modern trattoria and stand-up bar is located next to its sister restaurants, Corso 32 and Bar Bricco, on Jasper Avenue. It is a contemporary, yet cozy, space that serves up classic, simple Italian food. Every dish is thoughtfully constructed, from the quality ingredients to the plating, and there is a fantastic wine list featuring some hard-to-find Italian wines that perfectly complement the food.

According to Costa, each of his restaurants represents the food served in the different, and diverse, regions of Italy. “Each region is kind of like its own little country,” says Costa. Uccellino spotlights the lighter, everyday fare of southern and central Italy.

The menu is divided into Fritti (fried), Crostini and Antipasti (appetizers), Primi (first course, pasta), Secondi (second course, divided into meats and vegetables), Formaggi (cheese), and Dolci (dessert). Try the mouth-watering Beef Carpaccio topped with arugula, lemon, and Parmesan cheese, before digging into the Polpette, tomato-braised pork meatballs with pangrattato (Italian breadcrumbs) and basil. You will also want to try the unique and decadent Olive Oil Cake with Olive Oil Gelato for dessert!

While the restaurant does take reservations, they also keep half of their tables and the stand-up bar unreserved. —Lindsay Shapka

Uccellino | 10349 Jasper Ave. | 780-426-0346
Sun to Thu 5 pm – 10 pm; Fri – Sat 5 pm – 11 pm

Where to Dine Awards: Calgary’s Best Restaurants 2016

Whitehall (Photo: Neil Zeller)

Whitehall (Photo: Neil Zeller)

It’s no secret that Calgary spent much of the past year in a recession, but that didn’t slow down the creative efforts in Calgary’s restaurant scene. Diners were hungry (pun definitely intended) for new and diverse offerings, and restaurants new and old responded. Here we present the top three restaurants in 24 categories as voted by our readers*. Cheers!

BEST AMBIENCE
The overall look and feel of a restaurant is often as important as what’s on your (teal, miss-matched china, small, etc.) plate when it comes to an enjoyable dining experience. Located in a historic brick building, Charbar exudes rustic charm with a contemporary twist and provides a comfortable atmosphere for all occasions. Their rooftop patio has a unique view of the city skyline and of the Bow River, providing an exceptional dining experience in the summer. Nestled in the beautiful Prince’s Island Park and accessible only by walking and bike paths, the tranquil, serene, nature setting of River Café is truly one of a kind. It makes every occasion, even a simple family Sunday brunch, feel extra special. “Between the casual feel of the building and the rich sound of vinyl being spun on the in-house turntable, Model Milk hits the right balance between chic and casual,” says Elizabeth Chorney-Booth. “You can relax and just have a good time, while also feeling like you’re having a special night out on the town.”

*Judging Process: Notable local food writers Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, Dan Clapson, John Gilchrist, Julie Van Rosendaal, and our dining columnist Gwendolyn Richards each submitted their best restaurant pick in each dining category. Their picks, along with restaurants nominated by the Where Calgary team (for a total of ten nominations in each category), were used in an online poll on where.ca, open to residents of Alberta. Readers submitted their votes in each category, and could select one of the ten nominees, write in their own vote, or abstain for voting in categories they were not familiar with. All restaurants in the city were eligible to win in each category, except in the Best New Restaurant Category. Restaurants considered in the Best New Restaurant category were restaurants that opened between November 1, 2015 and November 1, 2016, and had been open for a minimum of three months during that time frame. The Best New and Best Overall restaurant winners are editor’s picks based on the judges recommendations. Our list represents restaurants that visitors to the city can easily access, as one of the factors the judges considered was accessibility (location to transit, major attractions, and established neighbourhoods).

BEST ASIAN FOOD
Anju serves up traditional Korean small plates with a modern twist in a refined setting. One bite of any of chef Roy Oh’s dishes and you’ll see why locals love it here. At Raw Bar “Viet-modern” cuisine takes centre stage with sharing plates that fuse traditional cuisine and trendy ingredients. Thai Sa-on is the place for authentic Thai food. Vegetarians and meat lovers alike will be very happy with the expertly prepared variety of traditional dishes.

BEST FOR BEER
The Ship & Anchor is more than a bar, it’s a local institution where you’ll find people in leather punk rock jackets, suit jackets, and everything in between enjoying all varieties of beer. When you want beer, food, and entertainment in one convenient setting, head to one of National’s four locations. “With plenty of beers to try and a wide-ranging food menu, not to mention great patios — and in the case of the 10th Avenue location, a bowling alley beneath — National covers all the bases,” says Gwendolyn Richards. If you fancy yourself a connoisseur of the suds, Craft Beer Market is the place to be. With more than 100 craft beers on tap, they truly have something for everyone including local microbrews, imports, and gluten-free varieties.

BEST BARBECUE
Calgary is a very meat-centric city, but it’s not just about steak — many restaurants turn to the South for inspiration. The Palomino is a local institution that’s casual and just the right amount of gritty — no frills, just great barbecue, beer, and live music. Their slow-smoked meats are served all-day long (even for breakfast), so get your fill of ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and chicken. The communal tables and platters of meats at Hayden Block encourage sharing, so your party can sample a variety of the mouth-watering Texas-style meats (we suggest the short ribs and turkey breast — it’s definitely not the dry sort of turkey you have at Thanksgiving). Booker’s BBQ & Crab Shack is a pub-style restaurant with barbecue that will please any palate with house-made rubs, slow-smoked brisket, ribs, and chicken, and fixings such as baked beans and cornbread.

Sidewalk Citizen (Photo: courtesy Travel Alberta)

Sidewalk Citizen (Photo: courtesy Travel Alberta)

BEST FOR BUDGET BITES
When you want a meal without breaking the bank, there’s no need to sacrifice taste and quality. Cluck N Cleaver has devotees who can’t get enough of the juicy Southern fried and rotisserie chicken. “For a quick take-home meal, the perfectly crisp chicken paired with a side of potato salad and a ridiculously rich chocolate malt shake can’t be beat,” says Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, while Gwendolyn Richards notes that “Colonel Sanders has been demoted.” Those who believe bread is the most critical part of a sandwich must go to Sidewalk Citizen. Baker Aviv Fried pairs sandwich fillings with the perfect bread: breakfast on buttery brioche buns, cold sandwiches on crusty, handmade sourdough, and soft, fresh pitas filled with creative daily specials. Spolumbo’s is a local business loved for their endless varieties of homemade, all-natural sausages, cold cuts piled high on fresh bread, and meatballs made with Mamma’s secret recipe in their deli.

BEST BRUNCH
Calgarians love brunch, and while most bars and restaurants offer a brunch menu on weekends, there are a some stand-out places that serve it daily. It’s worth waiting in the long lines that form at OEB Breakfast Co.  — the breakfast poutine is a local favourite, but their signature egg dishes are also tops. “Wonderfully conceived by chef/owner Mauro Martina, OEB elevates brunch to an art,” says John Gilchrist. Next door at Diner Deluxe you’ll find both traditional (think: meatloaf hash and buttermilk pancakes) and contemporary (mascarpone French toast) dishes served in a retro-style diner. For unique, contemporary breakfast dishes, head to Yellow Door Bistro. Be sure to ask about the feature pancake. It changes monthly and is always a decadent mix of flavours (it looks too good to eat, but you won’t regret digging in).

Briggs Kitchen and Bar (Photo: Joey Camacho, courtesy Briggs)

Briggs Kitchen and Bar (Photo: Joey Camacho, courtesy Briggs)

BEST CASUAL BUSINESS DINING
For a successful working lunch, striking the right balance between sophisticated and unpretentious is key. Whether you want to do some people-watching on the balcony or find a quiet place to dine indoors, Murrieta’s Bar & Grill has what you’re looking for, and a great wine list to boot. Briggs Kitchen and Bar has a cool but friendly vibe and a meaty menu full of updated comfort food classics — the Newf’s poutine with lobster has its own cult following. Barcelona Tavern serves Spanish tapas that are perfect for a group dining experience. They also pour unique versions of gin and tonics and have excellent daily and happy hour specials.

BEST CHINESE FOOD
Chinese food is undoubtedly a part of Calgary’s heritage — in fact, the prairie staple ginger beef was invented here. Silver Dragon Restaurant specializes in dim sum and hot pot, and their extensive menu with a mix of traditional and westernized dishes is popular with business lunch crowds and families alike. If all-you-can-eat is where your heart lies, China Rose Restaurant has an extensive buffet filled with fresh, tasty options that lean more towards the westernized side, including, of course, ginger beef. Szechuan Restaurant is not for the faint of tongue, but if you crave spicy food you’ll be in heaven. Stand-out dishes include kung pao chicken, ma po tofu, and (for those who can’t take the heat) tea smoked duck.

Proof (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Proof (Photo: Jason Dziver)

BEST FOR COCKTAILS
Every single cocktail on the menu at Proof is unique to this cocktail bar, though they do an exceptional job of shaking and stirring up the classics, too. “The extensive back bar at Proof speaks to the care and creativity that goes into their continually evolving drinks list,” says Gwendolyn Richards. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a sunny beach with one sip of a cocktail at Native Tongues Taqueria, which uses Mezcal in several cocktails including their tiki creations and signature Mezcal-garita. There aren’t any slush machines here, just the real margarita deal. If whiskey is your thing, the cocktails at One18 Empire will impress. You can even customize your old fashioned with a choice of bitters, syrups, whiskies, and even wood to smoke — then your server will mix it up tableside.

LES CLEFS D’OR ALBERTA SILVER SERVICE AWARDS
Hy’s Steakhouse in Calgary
By Warren Downs, Fairmont Gold Manager and Chef Concierge at Fairmont Palliser
Calgary is known for western hospitality and Alberta beef — two things exceptionally exemplified by Hy’s. Founded in Calgary in 1955, Hy’s reopened in 2015 after an eight-year absence in the city. Under the vision and leadership of Hy’s veteran Barb Steen, the new Hy’s continues to thrive. The design and layout of the location evokes the essence of a classic steakhouse, with the perfect blend of modern elegance. This is showcased in the custom millwork, antique brass, and dark leather that adorn the surroundings. The large restaurant features versatile dining spaces and lounges, along with private dining. On the walls you’ll find remarkable western artwork, photographs, and newspaper excerpts, a tribute to Hy’s storied history in the city and beyond. The menu is extensive and refined with all of the classics you would expect from an opulent steakhouse, along with creative and modern dishes featuring seafood, lamb, and duck. Many of the dishes are prepared tableside providing the highest assurance of quality and customization. Every member of the staff is extremely engaging and knowledgeable, able to answer any questions and make ideal recommendations, ensuring an exceptional dining experience.
Balkan Restaurant in Banff
By Kristi McClintok, Chef Concierge, The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Joanna Karlos and her family provide the best in hospitality to our guests, welcoming everyone into their Greek oasis on Banff Avenue. The Balkan features warm and friendly service, authentic and delicious Greek cuisine, and award-winning cocktails and wines from Greece. We love Joanna’s classic Greek dishes such as the arni psito, a delicious dish featuring their slow roasted lamb shank. Their platters offer incredible variety and are fun to share with family and friends. There is nothing more unique than Greek Nights at the Balkan Restaurant featuring entertainment, belly dancing, and plate smashing! For Les Clefs d’Or Alberta, the Karlos and Balkan family makes the Concierge teams and our guests feel like a part of their family.

BEST FOR FAMILIES WITH KIDS
Most parents have experienced the pain of trying to find a restaurant where both children and adults will love the food, but luckily such wondrous places do exist. Italian hotspot Cibo manages to delight foodies of all ages with simple, delicious food in a beautiful space. “Cibo is the perfect spot to take kids and help them learn how to behave in a nice restaurant without worrying too much about bothering other patrons or not being able to find something they can eat,” says Elizabeth Chorney-Booth. National (the Westhills location) hits the spot for families with a robust beer list and fun cocktails to soothe mom and dad’s raw nerves (adult slurpees, anyone?) while kids chow down on favourites like mac n’ cheese and crispy chicken nuggets. Redwater Rustic Grille’s three locations boast an upscale vibe while remaining family-friendly. There’s a kid’s menu that’ll keep the littles happy while adults can enjoy well-prepared, classic Canadian dishes.

BEST FOR FINE DINING
Elegant plating, a more formal atmosphere, attentive staff, an exceptional wine list, and high-quality ingredients: every detail of the dining experience is executed to perfection at these establishments. Alloy’s refined menu offers a variety of globally-inspired dishes which look beautiful and taste complex yet not overbearing. The room is unpretentious yet stylish, a definite oasis in an industrial area. The upscale Italian fare at Teatro is fresh and made to order, which doesn’t only increase the quality but means the chefs can, and will, accommodate any dietary restrictions. If guests want an intimate and quiet experience, Teatro has lots of table options within the dining room — no need to book a separate room. The elegant, historic setting of Rouge is unique and offers the perfect atmosphere to enjoy upscale, locally-inspired dishes. The beautiful food, personalized service, and exquisite wine list make any occasion feel special.

BEST FORMAL BUSINESS DINING
When you need to seal a deal or get some work done, a quiet, inviting atmosphere and attentive but not overbearing service is as important as the meal. If the name Charcut alone doesn’t impress thanks to all of its accolades, the personalized, impeccable service will impress as much as the food (which is very meat-centric). The upscale, intimate Vintage Chophouse will dazzle any client or colleague — especially those who appreciate a great steak — and allows for privacy, with private rooms for team meetings and meals. “The food at Blink is always on point and the carefully curated wine list will impress clients and give business colleagues something to cheers with when they seal a big deal,” says Elizabeth Chorney-Booth. “Plus the room itself is clean and has a professional feel without being too stuffy.”

Cassis Bistro (Photo: courtesy Anstice Communications)

Cassis Bistro (Photo: courtesy Anstice Communications)

BEST FRENCH FOOD
French cuisine has been on a pedestal for a long time — when done right, it just has that incomparable je ne sais quoi. Cassis Bistro is a lively, charming spot that combines Canadian ingredients with French cooking techniques for a perfect farm-to-fork meal. If you’ve never had galettes, the menu at Suzette Brittany Bistro will be a delicious education. “Suzette Bistro has the same calm, clean French flair Cassis offers,” Julie van Rosendaal says. “They build classic yet approachable dishes with the best ingredients, so you really feel like it’s more than a meal — it’s an experience.” Avec Bistro is a bright, modern restaurant that can be relied on to deliver contemporary takes on the French classics, from foie gras torchon to crispy frog legs to steak frites with béarnaise sauce. Don’t skip over the drink menu which has five varieties of absinthe and a generous wine list.

BEST INDIAN FOOD
Moti Mahal has been a fixture in Calgary for nearly 30 years, serving enthusiastic patrons with flavourful classics and hot, fresh naan. Mango Shiva is known for their clever and delicious deviations from standard Indian menus, particularly “naacos” — naan tacos filled with butter chicken, mango chutney, and cilantro. Rajdoot Restaurant features an excellent buffet that’s available every night of the week with an ample selection of curries and accompaniments. Best of all, naan is made fresh for each table.

BEST ITALIAN FOOD
When you’re craving pasta or pizza, there’s no need to bake that frozen pie that’s been sitting in your freezer or stir up a box of KD. Bonterra Trattoria serves upscale Italian fare in a woodsy, softly-lit dining room that works well for both casual and fine dining. What locals love about this place is its dedication to traditional, classic dishes. Pulcinella is a contemporary, lively spot that is family-friendly but works for any occasion. Sink your teeth into made-to-order, Napoletana-style, foldable-crust pizzas cooked in their wood-burning oven, but if you prefer pasta you’re in good hands with their homemade pasta and sauces. Centini is a gem in the downtown core that works well for business dining and serves traditional, upscale Italian fare and seafood that’s flown in twice per day.

Ki Modern (Photo: courtesy Michelle Lan PR)

Ki Modern (Photo: courtesy Michelle Lan PR)

BEST JAPANESE FOOD
The dining room at Ki Modern is elegant enough for a business deal or special occasion, but the approachable and authentic food and reasonable prices make it loved by everyone. They also have their own sake sommelier who can help you pair the right variety with your meal. Goro and Gun is a casual, lively place with great happy hour pricing. They serve everything from ramen to sushi, including more unique dishes like a ramen burger and okonomiyaki. Over at Shokunin you can find exclusive sakes, yakitori (various chicken parts cooked over fire) and other authentic street food-inspired dishes in a small, lively setting.

BEST USE OF LOCAL/REGIONAL INGREDIENTS
For a true taste of Calgary and of Canada, opt to visit a place which sources local ingredients. This practice has become much more common in Calgary, though there are some pioneers who have set the bar for fresh and local. “River Café continues to inspire others in the industry to challenge their use of local ingredients, with chef Matthias Fong drawing on a broad range of techniques to bring the best of Alberta to the table,” says Julie Van Rosendaal. With a garden right outside in its backyard, Rouge takes the concept of “local” to a new level while sourcing the rest of their ingredients from nearby farms and local suppliers. While a brasserie is typically associated with French cooking, Brasserie Kensington has given their menu a Canadian twist by using locally-sourced ingredients in its dishes.

Native Tongues Taqueria (Photo: Toni Nicole)

Native Tongues Taqueria (Photo: Toni Nicole)

BEST MEXICAN/LATIN FOOD
Native Tongues Taqueria has moved beyond salsa and chips with authentic, chef-driven Mexican food and drinks. Ordering five or six tacos de guisado — moist meat and/or vegetables in their soft, corn tortillas topped with homesmade salsa roja and salsa verde — is the norm here. Things are lively at Añejo with their delicious guacamole made fresh tableside, fruity margaritas, and daily (yep, even on the weekend) happy hour. Ox and Angela focuses on Spanish cuisine with a selection of tapas and cocktails that are perfect for sharing and inspire discussions as if you were on vacation.

BEST SEAFOOD
Though Charbar’s menu isn’t limited specifically to seafood, they’ve earned a place in this category for bringing in unique ingredients and serving well-prepared dishes such as tableside ceviche, crispy fried squid, massive platters piled with raw shellfish and cooked seafood, and unusual daily specials. Catch & the Oyster Bar has long been the go-to for great seafood in Calgary, not only for its great food but for two distinct atmospheres: an elegant dining room upstairs and a lively bar downstairs. Whether you want a massive seafood platter, shucked oysters, or a refined meal, it’s all here. Rodney’s Oyster House combines maritime hospitality with the freshest oysters, lobsters, king crab, and more. “A dedicated restaurant for people who love seafood, Rodney’s is serious about its different variety of oysters and other shellfish and really educating guests about where their seafood is coming from,” Elizabeth Chorney-Booth says.

BEST FOR STEAK
Alberta is famous for amazing quality beef, and while it’s easy to serve a good steak here it’s very difficult to stand above all challengers and offer the best steak. Vintage Chophouse prides themselves on serving only the finest cuts of meat expertly grilled, and are willing to help identify the right cut and temperature that suits your tastes. “Beef at Modern Steak is pretty much as good as it gets” says John Gilchrist, noting “humanely raised, ranch-specific beef (Brant Lake, Pine Haven) that’s well-aged, and cooked on an infrared grill” as the reasons why. Can’t decide which cut to try? Get the filet trio for two for a true taste of Alberta. With 45 years of history in Calgary, Caesar’s Steakhouse has a well deserved following of loyal patrons, and it’s not just the customers — they’ve worked with the same meat supplier for more than four decades, and every steak is lovingly cut to order. This place is old school, and rightfully proud of it.

The Coup (Photo: courtesy The Coup)

The Coup (Photo: courtesy The Coup)

BEST VEGETARIAN FOOD
The Calgary restaurants that are doing vegetarian food well are the ones making it accessible, flavourful, and offering more than just salads so that even stern meat-eaters want in on it. The Coup has been a pioneer of vegetarian (and vegan) food in Calgary for 13 years and continues to be popular with all eaters for its variety of vegetarian twists on familiar dishes — you will forget why you ever needed to be reminded to eat your greens. The majority of the sharing-style menu at the chic Ten Foot Henry is vegetarian and vegetable-focused — rich, complex flavours are added to perfectly cooked vegetables in the form of homemade sauces. With vegan burritos, poutine, and burgers, you can eschew meat without sacrificing your favourite foods at Veg-In YYC. “Sehra Bindal’s energy and charm are infused in her Indian-influenced vegetarian cooking,” says John Gilchrist. “So much flavour, so much goodness, so little fuss.”

BEST FOR WINE
Whether you want to pair wine with a meal or relax over a glass on its own, thankfully there’s no shortage of restaurants in Calgary with a great wine list. Vin Room is a favourite for its casual, unpretentious room (perfect for catching up with a friend over a glass) and extensive list with expert staff who can help find a wine you’ll like (whether you know your favourite profiles or can’t tell a Malbec from a Cabernet Sauvignon). Connoisseurs who are looking for something really unique should visit Pigeonhole. “The list is short but carefully curated and ever changing so ordering a glass of wine at Pigeonhole often means a chance to try something new and unusual,” says Gwendolyn Richards. What do we mean by unique and unusual? For instance, they’re the only place in the city where you can try orange wine by the glass. Winebar Kensington lives up to its name with a space that reflects the idealized version of a wine bar. The dimly-lit, intimate space is perfect for a date night with a refined selection of wines to pair with cheese and charcuterie boards.

BEST NEW RESTAURANTS

The British invasion in Calgary’s restaurant industry has been a very welcome one. “From the time it opened, Whitehall has hit it out of the park with consistently delicious food that feels fancy and comforting at the same time,” says Elizabeth Chorney-Booth.

Chef McCue on the cover of Where's Jan/Feb issue

Chef McCue on the cover of Where Calgary’s Jan/Feb issue.

Whitehall’s chef, Neil McCue, hails from Barnsley in Yorkshire, England and first came to Calgary in 2000 as part of the opening team at Catch (page 53). In 2004 he returned to England, this time to Sussex where he earned and maintained one Michelin star at Curlew restaurant. Armed with the experience of cooking in a world-renowned restaurant, McCue returned to Calgary to open Whitehall, an approachable, contemporary British restaurant with a well-stocked gin bar.

Whitehall gives guests the opportunity to experience world-class food and service in a welcoming space that encompasses the British tradition of the meeting hall. McCue’s cooking technique and background add a refined, fine dining flair, but the overall experience is a casual one. “Whitehall is a meeting place about seasonality and approachability,” says McCue. “You can come have a relaxed bite, you don’t need to have a full meal.”

The seasonality of his food was inspired by his time cooking in England and by a changing trend McCue noticed in Calgary that is different from when he was last here in 2004. “There are a lot more people knowledgeable about food, because there are a lot more people writing about food,” says McCue, referring to blogs and social media. “It’s made people more aware about where their food comes from.”

McCue cooks similar dishes at Whitehall as he did back in Britain, but always with a local twist — such as the Wagyu strip loin. Made with Alberta beef, it’s a simple dish cooked to perfection thanks to McCue’s mastered techniques of grilling and roasting. “I get joy every time I cook it,” McCue says.

Whitehall (Photo: Neil Zeller)

Whitehall (Photo: Julie van Rosendaal)

“Chef McCue’s double baked cheese soufflé became an instant classic for good reason and he’s successfully fighting the good fight to get Calgarians to enjoy mackerel, a fish that I didn’t think I liked until I tried it there” says Elizabeth Chorney-Booth. That cheese soufflé is the most popular dish and customers return for it time and time again. It’s a simple, traditional dish that McCue makes very well with proper cheeses and techniques.

“I can honestly say he has the raw talent that every young chef aspires to,” says Duncan Ly of Foreign Concept, who worked with McCue at Catch. “His cooking style is playful and innovative, he has a way of taking a simple dish and adding flare, but he would never sacrifice his standards on a single plate.”

Since open, Whitehall has added even more to love: a private dining room in the wine cellar, a new cocktail menu and bar bites, small plates for sharing, and minors are now allowed so the whole family can enjoy a meal together.

——————————

Ten Foot Henry (Photo: Neil Zeller)

Ten Foot Henry (Photo: Neil Zeller)

Co-owners Aja Lapointe and chef Steve Smee get our vote for opening an incredibly accessible vegetable-focused restaurant in a meat-centric city. Forget packaged salads and cold veggies, Ten Foot Henry serves up fresh, filling, inventive dishes including an addictive pasta dish bucatini cacao e pepe and tomatoes mixed with soft whipped feta on top of bread. There are a few meat options such as a hanger steak that will more than satisfy the discerning meat eaters.

“I love the option of sharing family-style and ordering a bunch of things that meat eaters and vegetarians can enjoy together,” says Elizabeth Chorney-Booth. “And even though a lot of the food is healthy it never feels like ‘health food.’”

“On a recent visit we tasted our way through a whole spread of interesting dishes before realizing there wasn’t a bite of meat on the table,” says Julie Van Rosendaal. Add in the Scandinavian-chic décor, attentive yet not-invasive service, and a well-rounded drink menu and you’ve got an exceptional dining experience.

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The Guild (Photo: Neil Zeller)

The Guild (Photo: Neil Zeller)

The buzz around what would open in the historic sandstone building on Stephen Avenue was rewarded with The Guild, a sleek restaurant suited for the corporate downtown dining crowd. With a spacious interior and the largest patio in Calgary, there’s always room during the busy lunch hour and after-work happy hour.

“The food from chef Ryan O’Flynn is stellar,” says John Gilchrist. “Heavy on the meat, O’Flynn’s menu is a lush and luscious rendition of modern Canadian cuisine.” There’s something for everyone including staples such as a burger and a margherita pizza, but adventurous palates should try items such as the braised jacob’s ladder bison (fall-off-the-bone tender meat coated in a delicious maple and espresso sauce) or the steak tartare piled on a bone to mix with savoury bone marrow.

The whole experience is refined yet relaxed, perfect for business or pleasure. Rumour has it that if you explore around the lower level you’ll encounter a swanky speakeasy bar on Friday and Saturday nights.

BEST OVERALL RESTAURANTS

River Café (Photo: Neil Zeller)

River Café (Photo: Neil Zeller)

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2016 is just one of the ways we know River Café has staying power and has long been a favourite of visitors and locals alike. “It continues to stay relevant due to its commitment to nurturing and supporting young chefs who do incredibly creative things with local ingredients,” says Elizabeth Chorney-Booth. “Ninety-five per cent of what Chef Matthias Fong brings into his kitchen is local — he uses sumac in place of citrus because lemons don’t grow in Western Canada — yet he still manages to put together one of the most delicious fine dining menus in the city.”

River Café has always been the epitome of fresh, local dining — even before those were menu buzzwords — and its enviable location in Prince’s Island Park allows guests to enjoy an impressive, unmatchable restaurant atmosphere. No matter what meal you enjoy here, or on what occasion you visit, we know you’ll love it — it’s comfortable and accessible for all diners, yet offers an extraordinary dining experience.

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Located in a historic home, Rouge is an exceptional mainstay of Calgary’s dining scene, known for its backyard garden and perfect execution of fresh French-style cuisine. The menu changes with the season, reflecting a commitment to working with local farmers for the best ingredients. Whether you’re looking for a cozy, romantic meal for two or a lunch with friends, Rouge impresses and makes every guest feel special with its personalized, professional service and food that is both artful and flavourful.

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Anju (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Anju (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Contemporary takes on traditional ethnic cuisine have been an emerging trend in Calgary, and Anju has done an exceptional job of it for nine years with chef Roy Oh’s versions of Korean dishes. Visit with a group so you can try as many sharing plates as possible — there isn’t a lackluster dish on the sizeable menu. Popular favourites include fried Brussels sprouts with a hint of maple syrup sweetness, crispy tofu with kimchi, and chicken wings — yes, chicken wings — in a spicy gochujang sauce. Pair everything with one of their exceptional cocktails or some soju and stay awhile. Anju is open until 1 am every night, which also means you don’t have to hunt for fast food when you crave a midnight snack.

Chef Spotlight: Shelley Robinson

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Photo courtesy Gateway Casinos.

The new regional executive chef for the Grand Villa Casino, Shelley Robinson — and first-season Chopped Canada winner — admits the heavy influence of her grandmother led her to a passionate career in cooking. “My grandparents had a farm in the Okanagan,” she retells, “so I grew up around that: the food, cooking, and sharing around a big table and people laughing. I really got to know, love, and understand that as a young person.” This philosophy has guided her in her career, and now brings her from Vancouver to Edmonton for the new Atlas Steak + Fish and Match restaurants.

In creating her dishes, Robinson’s inspired by the quality of the ingredients. “[It’s] the driving force in any menu,” she says, “I always want to ensure that I know where the product comes from.” In the brand new space, Robinson’s also been inspired by Atlas’s Josper oven, which is a combined grill and oven. “The larger cuts of meat — the cowboy steaks and our Tomahawk — really benefit from that long, slow cooking over the mesquite charcoal,” she explains. And though Atlas may appear to be an upscale restaurant, Robinson stresses it’s still very approachable. “It’s a beautiful, lush room to sit in,” she says, “but we have people come here before the hockey game in their Oilers jerseys, and that’s perfectly okay.” She’s excited about being connected to Rogers Place and the captive and continuous audience she has to create dishes for. “It’s very fast-paced, very high energy,” she explains. “I’ve never worked in a casino, so it’s a whole new feeling. I feel like I’m on vacation in Las Vegas every day when I come into work.”

As to her reason for moving to the city, Robinson offers, “I see Edmonton as a very emerging food scene… I think there’s been a little bit of a lack of profile for Edmonton, so hopefully I can help bring a bit of awareness for the destination traveller that we have some great restaurants here.” Robinson is also motivated to continue to collaborate with other Edmonton chefs and educate and provide opportunities for young cooks. And when she’s not working hard and testing new tools in the kitchen? “I’m really interested in learning more about the trails,” she says. “I know there’s going to be a lot of great cross-country skiing here in the winter.”

Toruk: The First Flight

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Photo by Errisson Lawrence; Costumes by Kym Barrett

Inspired by James Cameron’s movie Avatar, Cirque du Soleil has created a brand new, breathtaking performance that transports you to the visually stunning world of Pandora. Toruk — The First Flight is an immersive experience that fuses puppetry and incredible costumes with a cinematic score and a cutting-edge set. This mythical tale takes place thousands of years before the movie, and before humans ever set foot in Pandora. When the Tree of Souls is threatened, two young boys set out on a quest to find Toruk, a mighty predator who is the only one who can help them save the Na’vi from a terrible fate. —Lindsay Shapka

Toruk: The First Flight | December 22 – 26
Rogers Place | 102 St. & 104 Ave. | 1-855-985-5000

Artist Spotlight: Alexandra Gusse

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Photo by Daria Nordell.

Edmonton artist Alexandra Gusse is in the final year of her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Alberta with a focus on painting. “Painting has always been a part of my life,” says Gusse, “I took private lessons when I was younger and fell in love with Van Gogh. He’s really influenced my work, especially his use of colours.”
Though a fairly young artist, Gusse has had work featured in multiple shows, including a solo show at the Sugarbowl recently. She also regularly does commissions of both human and animal subjects. “I do a lot of commissioned work, especially for weddings. Usually couples in romantic settings. I also have done pet memorial paintings. People choose subjects that are close to their heart.”
Her favourite subject matter is people, and she has gotten inspiration for her portraits in some interesting ways. “I usually base my paintings off of cell phone photos… Most of the paintings that were on display at the Sugarbowl were based on photos taken by my family, of my family. But, I also made a Kijiji ad asking strangers to send me photos and got a lot of interesting images that way.”
Alexandra-Gusse-PaintingHer work conveys a lot of emotion, something that she tries to use colour to accentuate. “People’s faces and the small differences within a face can affect the comfort of a piece so much. You can tell if they’re comfortable, or having a good time — what their emotions are. I can play with colour and manipulate colour to accentuate these emotions. I like to think about the intimacies between people and how to represent those best. “
You can purchase or commission the artist’s work through her website.

Our Local Gift Guide as Seen on Global Edmonton

Searching for that perfect gift for a special someone? Browse the list below for some of our unique finds from local retailers, which we showcased on Global Edmonton on December 2, 2016!

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Photo by Lindsay Shapka.

Dragonfly NecklaceScottish Imports — $35
Outlander Tartan ShawlScottish Imports — $230
Stephanie Simpson Art PrintTIX on the Square — $20
Royal Canadian Mint Holiday Gift SetWest Edmonton Coin and Stamp — $22
Fenix PD35 FlashlightSupply Sergeant — $106.95 (Those in military and police service can receive 10% off)
Olive and Piper Necklace, Bracelet & EarringsMiss Boss — $79, $65, $48
Garlic VodkaBig Rig Distillery — $47.62
The Short Story Advent Calendar (This year’s edition is sold out, but watch for it to come back next year in October!)
Children’s Aviator JacketAlberta Aviation Museum — $52–$57
Watering Can/Water PitcherBling — $60

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Photo by Lindsay Shapka.

Kobe E2 Hover BoardGateway Power Sports – $499
Scale Model of The Barris CoachDiecast Depot — $150
Rug Hooked Cushion by Edmonton artist Diane KrysAlberta Craft Council — $350
Wetterlings mini hatchet (Handmade at the oldest operating axe forge in Sweden) — Kent of Inglewood — $146
LVJ Haberdasher tweed bowtieKent of Inglewood — $95
Bird House (Made by local artist Monica Heutinck) — One Man’s Treasure (Shops of Stony Plain) — $40
TagineOil & Vinegar — $65.95
Tagine SpicesOil & Vinegar — $9.95
Tagine Sauce Spicy LemonOil & Vinegar — $14.95
Czech & Speake Vetiver CologneKent of Inglewood — $197
Yukiwa Chrome Shaker (Available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and finishes) — Kent of Inglewood — $46
Porters Cardamom and Rose Tonic Syrup (Alberta made!) — Kent of Inglewood — $26
Kent badger shaving brush, Edwin Jagger safety razor, Parker stand for razor and brushKent of Inglewood — $120, $60, $46
—Lindsay Shapka

Be the Bird at Angry Birds Universe

Angry-Birds---Meet-the-BirdsThe global phenomenon of Angry Birds — which has many kids and adults alike flicking fingers across smartphone screens for many hours of the day — is now an interactive science exhibit at TELUS World of Science—Edmonton! At Angry Birds Universe, you’ll begin by meeting the poor birds of Pig Island who had their eggs stolen by cruel pigs and discovering the flight dynamics of real birds that influenced their design. In other hands-on activities, you’ll learn the scientific principles behind the architecture of the game by building your own structures to knock down with a slingshot or creating your own animated cartoon. The most fun part? You can “be the bird” and propel down a zip line to knock over enormous foam blocks! —Matthew Stepanic

Angry Birds Universe | Through April 17, 2017
TELUS World of Science—Edmonton | 11211-142 St. | 780-451-3344

Talent Spotlight: Tom Wood

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Photo courtesy Citadel Theatre

Playwright and actor Tom Wood went through his own Scrooge-like transformation when he was first approached to adapt A Christmas Carol for the Citadel Theatre. His husband and then Artistic Director (now emeritus) Bob Baker asked him to write a script for Charles Dickens’ holiday tale, but Wood wasn’t interested. “I thought it was campy,” he says, “and nobody takes it seriously. It’s just a Christmas treat.” However, Baker convinced him to read the novella, and Wood, who was turning 50, felt it spoke to him at that pivotal age. “I didn’t realize that Dickens had written such a great, dark story,” he explains. “It’s about hope: how can people change once they’ve gotten older and stuck in their ways?”

Wood played the humbug-uttering Ebenezer Scrooge for the first 10 years, and is excited to return to the challenge of the role this year. “You have to go on every night and calcify all of your feelings and have them chipped away throughout the course of the play.” Though the story occurs at Christmas, the heart of it can appeal to anyone. “Dickens really found a great way to express a real human story,” says Wood. “It’s the death of the old year and the beginning of the new year.”

A Christmas Carol is now going into its 17th consecutive season. “A couple of years ago we thought, I guess it’s going to wind down,” Wood says, “but last year was the best box office yet… It’s a great gift.” If you’ve been on the fence about catching this magical production, Wood recommends you dive in. “It’s a wonderful way to initiate yourself because it has all the best things about theatre: it’s completely accessible, it’s funny, and it’s uplifting. It’s a great family experience.” —Matthew Stepanic

A Christmas Carol | November 26 – December 23 
A favourite holiday tradition, this Dickens’ classic is sure to delight audiences young and old. Now on its 17th consecutive year of performance and with the return of its first Scrooge, Tom Wood, this show provides exceptional entertainment with its unforgettable story, rich characters, and dazzling special effects.
Citadel Theatre | 9828-101A Ave. | 780-425-1820

Seasonal Sweets and Sips in Calgary

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By RACHAEL FREY

The holiday season is synonymous with rich, mouth-watering indulgence. This year, upgrade Santa’s milk and cookies and treat yourself to some of Calgary’s finest winter desserts and cocktails.

VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS

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(Photo: By Genevieve Renee, courtesy Crave)

Gingerbread Eggnog Cupcakes at Crave Cookies & Cupcakes
A twist on the classic holiday flavours, these sinfully delicious cupcakes will make you nostalgic for Christmases past. Spiced gingerbread cupcakes are topped with a generous swirl of eggnog buttercream and garnished with tiny gingerbread men. They’re also available in gluten-free and party cake versions.
1107 Kensington Rd NW, 403-270-2728, www.cravecupcakes.ca

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(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

Winter Cranberry Cloud Pie at Pie Cloud
Walking in a winter wonderland will come to mind when you taste this delectable creation: a flaky pie crust is topped with a layer of tart cranberry gelée, followed by an abundance of pink cranberry custard, and finished with billowy mounds of snowy meringue garnished with frost-kissed, sugared cranberries.
314 – 10 St NW, 403-802-3141, www.piecloud.ca

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(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

Holiday Collection Macarons at Ollia Macarons & Tea
A delicate, crisp meringue shell gives way to a heavenly, creamy centre — there’s nothing like a perfectly made macaron, and Ollia does them right. The holiday collection arrives December 1 with seven seasonal flavours including candy cane, gingerbread, and eggnog, plus a champagne buttercream that’s perfect for ringing in the new year.
810C – 16 Ave SW, 403-457-9775, www.byollia.com

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

Golden Crème Brulee Sphere at The Oak Room
While it may look like a perfect ornament plucked from the boughs of a Christmas tree, this extravagant treat tastes of the tropics. A decadent Tahitian vanilla cream sphere is dipped into a tangy-sweet passion fruit glaze and topped off with a golden leaf. It is served exclusively during The Oak Room’s weekday Festive Lunch Buffet. Mele Kalikimaka!
133 – 9 Ave SW, 403-262-1234, www.fairmont.com/palliser-calgary

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

Yule Log at Decadent Brûlée
The Yuletide simply isn’t complete without a Yule Log, a flour-less chocolate sponge cake spread with ganache, then filled with dark chocolate mousse. Variations include brandy-soaked cherries or white chocolate mousse with raspberries, but owner Pam Fortier’s favourite is dark chocolate with Armagnac-soaked prunes — if you think you don’t like prunes, this will change your mind!
722 – 11 Ave SW, 403-245-5535, www.decadentdesserts.ca

SPIRITS OF THE SEASON

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

Good Morning Vietnam at Raw Bar
If you like a splash of liqueur in your coffee when the cold wind starts to blow, this spicy take on Vietnamese coffee is the perfect cozy cocktail to warm you from the inside out. Strong coffee and condensed milk are combined with chocolate-and-chile-infused tequila, Frangelico liquor, and bitters, plus a dash of festive cinnamon and star anise.
119 – 12 Ave SW, 403-206-9565, www.rawbaryyc.ca

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

White Christmas at The Oak Room
You’ll be dreaming of a white Christmas, though this cocktail is unlike any you used to know. It’s a creamy sensation with a hint of graham and nutmeg to balance out the sweetness of exquisite Godiva white chocolate, topped with a toasted marshmallow and served over ice.
133 – 9 Ave SW, 403-262-1234, www.fairmont.com/palliser-calgary

(Photo: by Jeff Savage, courtesy Proof)

(Photo: by Jeff Savage, courtesy Proof)

Fireside Chats at Proof Cocktail Bar
The famous radio broadcasts of Franklin D. Roosevelt inspired this warm, rich drink, and much like those fireside chats it’ll leave you with a reassuring sense of well-being. It’s an updated version of hot buttered rum with cognac, cinnamon, Averna (an Italian bitter) and a hearty dollop of brown butter.
1302 – 1 St SW, 403-246-2414, proofyyc.com

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

A Whiskey a Day at One18 Empire
It’s not guaranteed that drinking one of these every day will keep the doctor away, but it’s worth a try. Whiskey is combined with apple, brown sugar, cinnamon, and hints of vanilla for a cocktail that’s reminiscent of chilly autumn days and a warm slice of grandma’s apple pie.
820 Centre St SE, 403-269-0299, one18empire.com

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

(Photo: by Neil Zeller)

Northern Star at Model Milk
Star anise, a traditional Christmas spice, steals the show in this wintery cocktail with bright notes of licorice — perfect for an evening cuddled up by the fire. Mount Gay Rum, Cointreau, lemon juice, egg white and star anise syrup are poured into a glass that’s been rinsed with absinthe for an extra bit of holiday cheer.
308 – 17 Ave SW, 403-265-7343, www.modelmilk.ca

(Photo: courtesy Evangeline PR)

(Photo: courtesy Evangeline PR)

Donner at Teatro Ristorante
Named for one of Santa’s eight tiny reindeer, this zippy cocktail will give you the energy you need to fly through your gift-giving and merry-making. Woodford Reserve bourbon and Cocchi Americano apertif wine are shaken with simple syrup, citric acid water, and Peychaud bitters, then garnished with a jaunty lemon twist.
200 – 8 Ave SE, 403-290-1012, www.teatro.ca

(Photo: courtesy Ki Modern Japanese)

(Photo: courtesy Ki Modern Japanese)

Festivus at Ki Modern Japanese & Bar
For the rest of us! Make sure to have this “all too real” cocktail in hand when you gather around the Festivus table for the Airing of Grievances. Campari and Chambord liqueurs are combined with local brewery Tool Shed’s Star Cheek IPA, plus a dash of lime juice and ginger syrup.
308 – 4 Ave SW, 403-264-1133, kijapanese.com

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The Jerk Nog: An Egg Nog with A Caribbean Twist at Ricardo’s Hideaway
Rum and egg nog is a staple this time of year, so naturally Calgary’s local rum bar offers their own version made with Indonesian cinnamon from Silk Road Spice Merchant and three types of rum for some island vibes.
☆ 1530 – 5 St SW, 587-349-2585, www.ricardoshideaway.ca