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Where to Eat Calgary

Breakfast in the ‘Burbs

By JAMES YOUNG

When that craving for eggs and waffles strikes, there’s no need to trek in to downtown Calgary — check out these five delicious places for breakfast or brunch in the ‘burbs.

BreakfastBurbsMap_large

The Bro’Kin Yolk
This friendly neighbourhood breakfast joint has become a favourite in north Calgary. Bro’Kin Yolk has the look and feel of a cool inner city restaurant but is located right in the middle of the suburbs and its bright atmosphere has made it a hit with families. But after all, who doesn’t love waffles, bacon, and eggs Benedict made from local ingredients?
130, 12580 Symons Valley Rd NW, 587-317-5743, www.brokinyolk.ca

Starbelly Open Kitchen & Lounge
Grab brunch at Starbelly Lounge where urban living meets the ‘burbs. This restaurant has a great modern atmosphere with an even better menu. Brunch on Sundays is “market style” — guests fill their plates from different stations set up around the restaurant. Snag a waffle, sausages, potatoes, eggs, mac and cheese, and many other options from 10 am – 3 pm every Sunday!
220, 19489 Seton Cr SE, 403-570-0133, starbelly.ca

Bennys Breakfast Bar

Bennys Breakfast Bar

Bennys Breakfast Bar
Hit up this one-of-a-kind diner with the family and indulge in everything brunch! The menu runs deep with over 10 kinds of eggs Benedict to choose from, along with other classic breakfast and lunch dishes and some more unusual options. The restaurant is designed like a classic ’50s diner and the décor is definitely the cat’s pajamas.
7007 – 11 St SE, 403-252-3443, bennysbreakfastbar.ca

Diner Deluxe (Aspen Landing)
This perpetually busy brunch hotspot is a hit with Calgarians living in the west end, so be sure to get there early or plan ahead and make reservations because there will be a line on the weekend! Try the breakfast poutine topped with your choice of double-smoked bacon, barbecue pulled pork, maple chicken sausage, or chorizo.
350 Aspen Glen Landing SW, 403-457-3000, www.dinerdeluxe.com

Cafe Le Matin
This small neighbourhood diner is the perfect place for a laid-back breakfast or brunch any day of the week. Fresh ingredients, great menu, warm atmosphere — there’s nothing not to like about this little gem. Dine cafeteria-style on comfort food like French toast, eggs Benedict with house-made hollandaise, and tasty soup and sandwich specials.
5720 Silver Springs Blvd NW, 403-247-6647

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Night Owls: Insider Tips on Calgary Nightlife

Sub Rosa (Photo: courtesy Anstice Communications)

Sub Rosa (Photo: courtesy Anstice Communications)

By RYAN MASSEL

There are endless spaces and places in Calgary to enjoy until the wee hours of the morning. From late night eats to one-of-a-kind nightlife experiences, these are some of our city’s finest!

(more…)

Where to Celebrate Wacky Holidays in Calgary

April is Grilled Cheese Month, the ideal time to head to Naina's Kitchen for an ooey-gooey ABC (apple, bacon, cheddar). (Photo: courtesy Naina's Kitchen)

April is Grilled Cheese Month, the ideal time to head to Naina’s Kitchen for an ooey-gooey ABC (apple, bacon, cheddar). (Photo: courtesy Naina’s Kitchen)

National Noodle Month: March
Noodles: the best food ever, or simply amazing? Kick off the festivities at Paper St. for a ramen burger — who needs buns when you have noodles? If your broth to noodle ratio ends up uneven at Jinya Ramen Bar, order a kaedama (noodle refill) for a second helping.

National Absinthe Day: March 5
Teetotalers, avert your eyes! This day is dedicated to the charming little beverage known as absinthe, which boasts an alcohol content of about 55 – 75 percent. Invoke the Green Fairy with Bourbon Room’s four-person absinthe fountain, or (careful, now) sample your way through five varieties at Avec Bistro.

Worship of Tools Day: March 11
No, not your ex — the useful kind of tool. If you’re bereft of tools to worship, visit Lee Valley, a family-run business that has it all from woodworking to gardening. About a third of the tools they sell are of their own design.

Waffle Day: March 25
There can be no waffling when naming the best sweet, bread-ish breakfast food — it’s clearly waffles. Get your waffle on with sweet and savoury variations at Buttermilk Fine Waffles or check out Starbelly’s weekend brunch buffet which features its own waffle station.

National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month: April
Archer said it best: grill… me… a cheese. Naina’s Kitchen is well known for their stuffed burgers, but their grilled cheeses are underrated hidden gem — the ABC (apple, bacon, cheddar) is the work of a genius.

National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day: April 2
Peanut butter jelly time! Peanut butter jelly time! Now that the song is stuck in your head (you’re welcome), let’s move on to where you can celebrate this illustrious day. For true PB&J cred, you need Tubby Dog’s Cap’n Dog: a hot dog slathered in peanut butter and jelly, then topped with a sprinkle of Cap’n Crunch cereal.

National Beer Day: April 7
Not to be confused with every other day of the year, this is the day to enjoy a nice, cold bottle and/or glass of suds. Make the day extra special with a sampling of the world’s finest craft brews at Craft Beer Market, which boasts more than 100 beers on tap.

Movie Theatre Day: April 23
This is the perfect time to hearken back to the movie experience of yesteryear at Calgary’s indie movie theatres: The Plaza in Kensington and downtown’s Globe Cinema.

Pinhole Photography Day: April 30
To take a photograph, you need two things — and no, a camera lens isn’t one of them. Pinhole photography uses the simplest of cameras: a light-proof box with a tiny hole in it. Dianne Bos is a renowned pinhole photographer, and naturally her work will be on display at Newzones on this most appropriate day.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Valentine’s Day can be kind of hit-or-miss, but Houseplant Appreciation Day and Drink Wine Day are a guaranteed good time. Here’s where to go in Calgary to celebrate some of the more “interesting” holidays.

Bean Day: January 6
Beans, beans, the musical fruit… enough said. The humble bean doesn’t get much attention, but all that changes today. Go to Native Tongues Taqueria for frijoles piled on tacos and tostadas or, if you prefer your beans baked, head to Holy Smoke BBQ for Southern baked beans with a side of barbeque.

Old Rock Day: January 7
Alberta is absolutely littered with old rocks — like, 60 million years old. It’s well worth the day trip to Drumheller’s Royal Tyrrell Museum to see one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur fossils, plus other fossilized flora and fauna from prehistoric eras long before Alberta was Alberta.

Houseplant Appreciation Day: January 10
This is the day to really show your houseplants how much you love them. Perhaps an extra splash of water? If your houseplants didn’t survive your, um, previous lack of appreciation, start fresh at Plant with incredible tropical, succulent, cactus, and airplant terrariums, or take a workshop and learn to create your own little plant world.

National Pie Day: January 23
The pie’s the limit on this holy day. The question is, savoury or sweet? At Pie Junkie, the answer is both — maybe one to stay and one to go?

Inspire Your Heart with Art Day: January 31
There are lots of ways to inspire your heart, but art is definitely one of the least risky and most rewarding ways. Pay a visit to the Esker Foundation to see their new exhibition Earthlings (starting Jan 21) — otherworldly, surreal, magically figurative ceramic sculpture and works on paper by seven contemporary artists.

National Hot Breakfast Month: February
Not to be confused with National Breakfast Month (September), this month is dedicated specifically to hot breakfasts — not lukewarm, and definitely not cold. Yellow Door Bistro has just the thing, a weekend hot breakfast buffet with a changing menu that highlights seasonal ingredients and creative takes on traditional breakfast fare.

Umbrella Day: February 10
Rain, snow, sleet, or even sunshine — let not a drop of it touch your skin on this day dedicated to your own portable canopy. If you don’t own such a canopy (also known as an umbrella), pick up a Hudson’s Bay striped one at The Bay or choose from dozens of other styles.

Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day: February 18
Though it may seem a bit odd to be breakfasting on frozen treats in the middle of the winter, we must nobly soldier on. Village Ice Cream opens at 11 am, which is technically still morning, but if you’re more the breakfast in bed type plan ahead and pick up a pint or two to go.

Drink Wine Day: February 18
If ever you needed an excuse to drink wine, here it is. There’s simply nothing we can do, we must obey the day. Get to Murrieta’s Bar & Grill or Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro for whites, reds, ports, sparkling, and maybe a little food. Don’t overdo it on the snacks though — this isn’t Eat Food Day.

International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day: February 23
We strongly suggest that you let your dog handle the appreciation on this illustrious day. Help ensure your fuzzy friend makes the most of their soon-to-be-favourite day with a gourmet biscuit from Bon A-Pet-Treat! Pet Bakery in the Calgary Farmers’ Market. They also make dog cakes that are so enticing you’ll want to try a bite (don’t, though).

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Christmas is great and all, but you just don’t hear enough about Pizza With the Works Except Anchovies Day or Look For Circles Day. Here are some of the places in Calgary to celebrate the more unusual holidays in November and December.

On Look For Circles Day, take a gander at public art piece Travelling Light. (Photo: Sakib Pratyay)

On Look For Circles Day, take a gander at public art piece Travelling Light. (Photo: Sakib Pratyay)

November: Peanut Butter Lovers Month
Suffering from an insatiable desire for peanut butter? Never fear, the doctor is in at RE:GRUB Burger Bar — the Doctor Peanut milkshake, that is. It’s infused with peanut butter and topped with peanuts, peanut butter cups, and Reese’s Pieces, plus a plastic syringe filled with a shot of extra peanut buttery goodness.

November 2: Look for Circles Day
It would be cheating if we told you where all the circles are, but here are a few hints: visit the Chinese Cultural Centre and look up — way up — to the spectacular domed ceiling. Keep an eye out for the public art piece Travelling Light (aka the Giant Blue Ring) on your way to the airport at the interchange of Deerfoot Trail and 96 Ave NE.

November 3: Sandwich Day
There’s an overabundance of places to celebrate this day (what a great problem to have). Make the pilgrimage to Holy Grill and discover to-die-for panini, or head to Grumans Catering and Delicatessen for a reuben crammed full of thick-cut smoked meat and tangy sauerkraut.

November 12: Pizza With the Works Except Anchovies Day
To order a pizza with the works except anchovies, you must go to a pizzeria that actually has anchovies — otherwise you’re just shouting into the void. Pizza Bob’s thin crust and Stromboli Inn’s thick, fluffy crust pies both fit the bill. And if you love anchovies… well, you’ll just have to come back another day.

November 28: French Toast Day
Breakfast epicures have enjoyed French toast since the days of the Roman Empire, so it’s only fitting that it has its very own day. Honour the deliciousness with Diner Deluxe’s French toast stuffed with brie cheese and Canadian bacon.

December 2: National Fritters Day
Mention fritters to a Calgarian and you’ll likely be sent straight to Chicken on the Way, a beloved institution that has been serving up huge, salty-sweet corn fritters and juicy fried chicken since 1958.

December 4: Wear Brown Shoes Day
Black, white, red, blue, chartreuse? No! Only brown shoes will do. If you don’t have any, get yourself shod at Fluevog Shoes or Arnold Churgin Shoes. From heels to sneakers, remember: if you’re out on the town, your shoes must be brown!

December 14: International Monkey Day
2016 is the Year of the Monkey, so it’s especially important to pay homage to these adorable primates. Visit them at the Calgary Zoo, home to three species of monkeys: Eastern black and white colobuses, Japanese macaques, and mandrills (the largest monkey species on Earth).

December 16: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day
For some folks, every day is Chocolate Covered Anything Day. But if you need some guidance, get to Cococo Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut for the classics like chocolate covered almonds and chocolate covered orange peel.

December 17: National Maple Syrup Day
Maple syrup is the lifeblood of Canadians. If you’ve never had the pure stuff you might not understand the hype, but one taste and you’ll be convinced. A Taste of Quebec at the Calgary Farmer’s Market has the real deal, plus over a dozen maple infused delicacies from maple sugar pie to maple beef stew. Heritage Park’s Haskayne Mercantile Block (no admission fee required) also stocks syrup at Railway Café and Switzer’s.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Sure, we all know about Halloween and Thanksgiving, but do you know when National Taco Day or Chocolate Cupcake Day are? We’ve listed some great places in Calgary to celebrate fall holidays in September and October, no matter how wacky they are.

September is National Chicken Month! In Calgary, celebrate with some delicious fried chicken to-go at Cluck ‘n’ Cleaver.

September: National Chicken Month
Did you know that September is deemed National Chicken Month? Celebrate this beloved bird at Cluck n’ Cleaver, where mouthwatering southern-friend chicken is the star of the show, along with homemade buttermilk biscuits, side salads, and homemade cookies. Also check out the popular chain Nando’s — famous for their mouthwatering peri peri sauce — which recently opened a funky, brand-new location on 17th Avenue.

September 3: National Beard Day
Get your facial hair a gift of grooming products from Kent of Inglewood, or pop by a barber shop such as Tommy Gun’sCannibale Barbershop, or Johnny’s Barber and Shop for a trim.

September 9: National Teddy Bear Day
Head to the Toy Shop at Heritage Park for a vintage-style teddy bear, or find a new furry friend at Livingstone and Cavell Extraordinary Toys.

September 16: National Guacamole Day
Watch as your server makes guacamole table-side at Añejo, or dive into the fresh guacamole and chips at Native Tongues. Make a return visit on October 2 for National Taco Day. Be sure to add a margarita for the celebration!

September 19: Talk Like a Pirate Day
Arrr, matey! Anchor your ship and enjoy a few rum cocktails and snacks at the Caribbean-themed Ricardo’s Hideaway. It’s a perfect spot for a pirate and fellow crew members.

September 21: National Mini Golf Day
Summer may be over, but you can still perfect your put at Winsport or Shakers Fun Centre.

September 24: National Cherries Jubilee Day
Did you know that the cherry jubilee was invented for Queen Victoria? Dine like royalty with this sweet treat at Hy’s Steakhouse. It’s an off-menu item, but also their signature specialty so you can order it any time.

September 25 – October 1: Banned Book Week
Celebrate diversity in literature and the freedom to read with banned books-printed notebook, socks, or a fun heat-reactive mug from the Calgary Public Library Store.

September 28: National Drink Beer Day
There are hundreds of places in Calgary to celebrate this day, but we recommend looking for ones with beers from local breweries on the menu: Big Rock Brewery, Wild Rose Brewery, Village Brewery, Dandy Brewing Company, Toolshed Brewing Company, and Banded Peak Brewing. Last Best Brewing and Distilling, Brewsters, and Trolley 5 Restaurant and Brewing are all brewpubs that create their own beers in-house.

September 29: National Coffee Day
It’s not hard to find a coffee shop in Calgary, but on this day especially we recommend visiting a local cafe. Get hyper-local and head to Phil & Sebastian, Analog, or Rosso; these cafes all serve their own locally-roasted beans.

October: National Pizza Month
Order up some tasty pies at local favourites Una Pizza + Wine, Without Papers, Pulcinella, Posto, PZA Parlour, or Double Zero. Don’t worry, we won’t hold it against you if you celebrate all month long!

October 1: National Vegetarian Day
Take a break from meat and head to The Coup or White Rose Vegetarian Kitchen for an all-vegetarian menu, or to Ten Foot Henry or Charbar where over half of their menus are comprised of meat-free dishes.

October 10: National Porridge Day
It’s time to celebrate this underrated breakfast item! Order up a bowl at Blue Star diner (we recommend the pumpkin and toasted walnut) or at Yellow Door Bistro for their steel cut oats with a homemade coconut cream and sliced peaches. Diner Deluxe also has a delicious oatmeal with a caramelized banana topping.

October 14: National Egg Day
Get crackin’ on October 14 and visit OEB Company for their amazing menu selection featuring dozens of options for eggs benedict, classic egg dishes, and omelettes.  At Bro’Kin Yolk all four of their eggs benny specialties are served on a homemade waffle.

October 18: National Cupcake Day
We know you don’t need a reason to indulge in a chocolate cupcake, but celebrate this day at Crave or Sweet Relief Pastries where delicious cupcakes (of all flavours!) are baked fresh daily. Sweet Relief Pastries even has a cupcake “happy hour” from 5 pm – 6 pm on weekdays where all cupcakes are only $2 each.

October 21: National Champagne Day
Order up a bottle of bubbly and toast this amazing day. Or, really indulge with a champagne dinner at Chef’s Table restaurant — you’ll be served a five course meal and six drink pairings from noted champagne brand Tattinger.

Made in the Shade: Calgary Summer Patio Guide

By RACHAEL FREY

Watch the Fourth Street passers-by from Vin Room's rooftop patio. (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Watch the Fourth Street passers-by from Vin Room’s rooftop patio. (Photo: Jason Dziver)

At the first sign of warm weather, Calgarians head to restaurant patios, even while wearing shorts, sandals—and a parka. While there are far too many excellent outdoor favourites to mention, here are a few great options for…

… PEOPLE WATCHING

Ox & Angela: See and be seen at this authentic Spanish tapas restaurant, which is beloved for its expertly prepared menu and cocktails.
528 – 17 Ave SW, 403-457-1432, oxandangela.com

Vin Room: All sorts of fascinating people hang out in Mission, and you can watch them parade past from Vin Room’s rooftop patio while sampling 100 wines by taste.
2310 – 4 St SW, 403-457-5522, www.vinroom.com

Murrieta’s Bar & Grill: Get a bird’s eye view of downtown Calgary’s busiest pedestrian walk along with fresh, creative West Coast dishes.
808 – 1 St SW, 403-269-7707, www.murrietas.ca

… A SECLUDED OASIS

Bonterra Trattoria: You’ll forget you’re not in Tuscany when you step into this rustic, vine-covered courtyard and taste the sophisticated Italian fare.
1016 – 8 St SW, 403-262-8480, bonterra.ca

Alloy: Sample Mediterranean and Asian flavours in the dappled sunlight on Alloy’s lush and peaceful patio (there’s plenty of parking space too).
220 – 42 Ave SE, 403-287-9255, www.alloydining.com

Raw Bar by Duncan Ly: Luxurious, poolside dining is a reality in downtown Calgary, elevated by Chef Ly’s award-winning “Vietmodern” cuisine.
119 – 12 Ave SW, 403-206-9565, www.rawbaryyc.ca

… A SPECTACULAR VIEW

Oak Tree Tavern: This friendly pub has an excellent rooftop view overlooking the Kensington neighbourhood, the Bow River, and the downtown skyline.
124 – 10 St NW, 403-270-3347, www.oaktreetavern.com

Boxwood Café: The beautifully landscaped, Victorian-style Central Memorial Park is home to this modern café featuring rotisserie meats.
340 – 13 Ave SW, 403-265-4006, www.boxwoodcafe.ca

The Lake House: The patio juts out over the glassy surface of Lake Bonavista, and the sights coming out of the kitchen are just as appealing.
747 Lake Bonavista Drive SE, 403-225-3939, lakehousecalgary.com

… DRINKING CRAFT BEER

Wild Rose Brewery: Go straight to the source at this small-batch, Alberta-exclusive brewery, which also boasts a large, sunny patio and tasty menu.
4580 Quesnay Wood Dr SW, 403-720-2733, www.wildrosebrewery.com

National on 17th: Everyone from hip artists to oil execs hangs out on the National patio, and not just for the large selection of North American craft brews.
550 – 17 Ave SW, 403-229-0226, ntnl.ca

1410 World Bier Haus: Look down on the commoners from their rooftop perch while sampling unusual beers from all over the world.
1410 – 17 Ave SW, 403-229-1410, www.1410bierhaus.ca

… GOURMET DINING

La Chaumière: The elegance of the classic French menu pairs perfectly with the beautiful patio, not to mention a wine list of over 800 vintages.
139 – 17 Ave SW, 403-228-5690, www.lachaumiere.ca

River Café: The only restaurant on Prince’s Island in the heart of downtown serves world-renowned cuisine with a focus on exquisite local ingredients.
25 Prince’s Island Park, 403-261-7670, www.river-cafe.com

Rouge Restaurant: Situated in a vast, verdant lawn, patio diners can enjoy inventive dishes prepared with ingredients grown in the garden right beside the tables.
1240 – 8 Ave SE, 403-531-2767, www.rougecalgary.com

… KID-FRIENDLY FOOD

Cibo: The menu at this bright, modern Italian restaurant manages to be both kid and adult-friendly, and the trellised patio has a lush garden vibe.
1012 – 17 Ave SW, 403-984-4755, cibocalgary.com

Dairy Lane Café: A fixture since 1950, this little diner with a streetside patio uses organic ingredients and features a special menu of kid’s favourites.
319 – 19 St NW, 403-283-2497, www.dairylanecafe.ca

Los Chilitos Taco & Tequila House: With a two-tier patio overlooking 17th Avenue SW and a menu of authentic Mexican food, there’s plenty of food and good views for everyone to love.
1309 – 17 Ave SW, 403-228-5528, www.loschilitos.ca

Where To Dine Awards Calgary 2014

Blink Restaurant (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Blink Restaurant (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Every year, some of the city’s top food critics convene to decide who deserves top honours in Calgary’s dining scene. Here are Where Calgary’s selections for 2014.

THE PANELLISTS

John Gilchrist is a Calgary restaurant critic, food writer, Where Calgary “Hot Dining” columnist, and author of Calgary and area restaurant review books My Favourite Restaurants and My Favourite Cheap Eats.

Julie Van Rosendaal is a best-selling cookbook author, the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One, and a columnist and freelancer for several publications across Canada.

A. Warren Downs is the Gold Manager and Chef Concierge at the Fairmont Palliser, and the Regional Vice Director of Les Clefs d’Or Canada.

Diana Ng is a digital media strategist by day, and hungry, hungry hippo/food writer by night. She is the co-founder of Eat North, and has written for Culinaire, WestJet’s Up!, and Avenue, as well as other publications like Canadian Living and Fodor’s travel guides.

Dan Clapson is a food writer and columnist in Calgary who helps to chronicle the Canadian food scene for media outlets like Avenue magazine, Food Network Canada, enRoute magazine, and more. He loves London Fogs when it’s minus five or colder.

A CONTEMPORARY CLASSIC
Where Calgary’s Restaurant of the Year is Blink
No gimmicks, no trends, no themes, no features: Blink Restaurant is just simply good. “Year after year, Blink proves that you don’t need to latch onto what’s “cool” to be one of the top dining destinations in the city,” Clapson says. “The wine list is one of the best you’ll find and Chef Chris Dewling’s menu is all local and all delicious.”

WTD_blink1

Blink Restaurant (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Blink opened in 2009 and ever since have served up dishes that do an outstanding job of showcasing local ingredients with delicious—and sometimes unexpected—flavour pairings. “One of the best qualities in a good restaurant is consistency,” Van Rosendaal says, “Blink serves a consistently fantastic menu in a beautiful, historic setting.” This is not to say that consistency, where Blink is concerned, is tired or outdated or frumpy—it’s inviting, contemporary, and unpretentious. Blink is just an enjoyable place to be. The exposed brick walls and soft lighting create an ambiance that’s pleasant for any sort of dining experience—date, business lunch, drinks, group get-together—without being distracting. Memorable meals are what Blink serves up, because you’ll remember everything about it from the presentation to the complimentary flavours to how upset you felt when you got to the last morsel on the plate (good thing there’s always dessert). There’s a sugar pumpkin soup with spiced crème that I’d like to have until it disappears from the menu.

FAMILIAR FAVOURITES: RUNNERS UP
Raw Bar by Duncan Ly
“Raw Bar has always been one of Calgary’s hot spots, a superbly designed room with a unique Vietmodern menu by Executive Chef Duncan Ly and Chef de Cuisine Jinhee Lee, and some of the best cocktails in the city created by mixologist Christina Mah,” Van Rosendaal says. “If there’s a bar to be set in terms of Modern Vietnamese cooking, then Chef Duncan Ly has certainly set it. The plates of food here as beautiful to look at as they are to eat,” Clapson says. “Raw Bar pleases both fans of traditional Asian cuisine as well as people who may not be familiar with Asian food, with chefs Duncan Ly’s and Jinhee Lee’s expert hands at combining Asian flavours and ingredients with solid cooking techniques,” Ng says.

Rouge Restaurant
“Rouge is that charming and rare union between sophistication, casualness, polish, and homegrown,” Ng says. The ingredients are as local as possible, and the techniques and style of the food is timeless, all done in a cozy and historical setting.”
You can’t get more local than a place that grows its own produce in the garden just outside the restaurant and sources everything else from Calgary area producers. “Rouge has become a Calgary icon with skilled chefs, a dedication to local ingredients, and attention to detail—not to mention the best garden party venue in the city” Van Rosendaal says.

YEAR OF THE PIG
Calgary’s Best New Restaurant of 2014 is Black Pig Bistro
It was an easy, unanimous decision to award Black Pig Bistro this title: “I’m always hard-pressed to find something wrong with this place,” Clapson says. “Impeccable service, great-looking room, and the food—those pork and beans are one of my favourite dishes in this province.” Pork and beans? Yes! This dish of savoury porchetta topped with green beans, broad beans, and edemame beans is the restaurant’s most popular, co-owner Larry Scammell says. “Black Pig Bistro offers up an inspiring menu with a Spanish edge and dedication to the pig, but they’re far from one-dimensional” says Van Rosendaal. “It’s worth a visit for their small plates, interesting cocktails, and fantastic desserts, all served in a comfortably current space.” Chefs Allison and John Bieber and owners Denise and Larry Scammel opened the restaurant in April 2014, inspired by Allison and John’s travels to Spain.

Black Pig Bistro (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Black Pig Bistro (Photo: Jason Dziver)

The restaurant name refers to the Black Iberian Pig, indigenous to Spain and Portugal, known for its high caliber of flavour. Here, they source their pork from Broek Pork Acres, a family run farm in Coalhurst, AB that raises grain-fed and pasture-dwelling pigs without antibiotics. Beyond tapas and typical pork dishes, the menu at Black Pig Bistro is truly innovative with resulting dishes that will satisfy hungry eaters and don’t just look pretty on the plate (though they do that, too.)

NEW AND NOTABLE: RUNNERS UP
Workshop Kitchen + Culture
Good theatre and good food have always gone together to form the perfect night out. That combination resides under one roof at The Grand, a historic entertainment building that is now home to the contemporary performance company Theatre Junction and the restaurant Workshop Kitchen + Culture. Named for the building’s original theatre group, Workshop 14, the restaurant matches the performances in contemporary innovation with dishes such as gin and juniper cured trout or roasted duck breast with a coriander and espresso glaze. Three, five, and seven course “improv” tasting menus are also available. Workshop even makes its own sodas in flavours such as vanilla maple cream and blackberry cardamom. “Workshop is a little bit of fresh air in a predictable downtown dining scene,” Clapson says. “There’s a lot on the menu here, but it’s all enticing.”

Scopa Neighbourhood Italian
Casual, neighbourhood Italian is the vibe here—and the food is deliciously suited to it. “The setting is part farm house, part Italian rumpus room, and the service is bright and the prices are right,” Gilchrist says. Perfect for families, dates, and friends, Scopa serves up crisp, crusty pizzas, creamy pastas, and authentic Italian desserts. “If you’re looking for a great Italian meal and good drinks without a crowd of hipsters standing in your way at the door, then this is the spot for you,” Clapson says. “Scopa’s inspired take on Italian (especially their polenta bread with pancetta and honey) is worth coming back for again and again.”

MAISON BIRKS SILVER SPOON AWARD
Centini Restaurant and Lounge

“All of our hotels have received many great comments back from our guests about the little things the staff at Centini have done to create a memorable dining experience for them; they will hand out cannoli as they are leaving, or let them in on a family recipe. As well as the excellent food, impeccable service, and consistency, they do their best to accommodate our guests when we call in to make a reservation.”
— Cindy Stewart, Chef Concierge Westin Hotel, Les Clefs d’Or Regional Secretary

BEST OF THE REST
Our judges’ picks for the top three restaurants in 22 dining categories

BEST FOR BEER
National
Craft Beer Market
Beer Revolution

BEST BRUNCH
Grumans Catering and Delicatessen
Yellow Door Bistro
Monki breakfastclub & bistro

BEST BURGERS
Naina’s Kitchen
Buchanan’s Chop House & Whisky Bar
Burger 320

BEST FOR BUSINESS LUNCH
Blink Restaurant
CHARCUT Roast House
Catch & the Oyster Bar

BEST CAFE/COFFEE SHOP
Gravity Espresso and Wine Bar
Caffe Rosso
Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters

BEST MULTI-LOCATION RESTAURANT
Redwater Rustic Grille
Earls Kitchen + Bar
Original Joe’s Restaurant & Bar

BEST COCKTAILS
Model Milk
Milk Tiger Lounge
Raw Bar by Duncan Ly

BEST DESSERT (RESTAURANT)
Yellow Door Bistro
Blink Restaurant
La Chaumiere Restaurant

BEST DESSERT (TO GO)
Yann Haute Patisserie
Brûlée Patisserie
Jelly Modern Doughnuts

BEST EAST ASIAN
White Elephant Thai Cuisine
Thai Sa-on Royal Thai Cuisine
The Himalayan

BEST EUROPEAN
Avec Bistro
Wurst Überkitchen
Cassis Bistro

BEST FAMILY DINING
Diner Deluxe
Cibo
Kinjo Sushi & Grill

BEST INDIAN
Namskar Restaurant
Clay Oven
Moti Mahal

BEST ITALIAN
Bonterra Trattoria
Il Sogno
Scopa Neighbourhood Italian

BEST FOR LOCAL INGREDIENTS
Rouge Restaurant
River Café
downtownfood

BEST PIZZA
Posto Pizzeria & Bar
Double Zero
Without Papers Pizza

BEST STEAK
Vintage Chophouse & Tavern
Wellington’s of Calgary
Rush Ocean Prime

BEST VEGETARIAN FOOD
The Coup
Boxwood Café
Namskar Restaurant

BEST FOR WINE
Divino Wine and Cheese Bistro
Vin Room
Wine-Ohs

*Note: Only restaurants that opened prior to November 1, 2014 were considered in all categories. Choices were voted on and discussed by the judges, with consideration for the visitor and local markets, which are Where Calgary‘s audience.

5 Dim Sum Restaurants in Calgary

By RACHAEL FREY

Shumai (front) and chiu-chao fan guo at Silver Dragon Restaurant. (Photo: Laura Johnston)

Shumai (front) and chiu-chao fan guo at Silver Dragon Restaurant. (Photo: Laura Johnston)

Steaming pots of tea, the chatter of happy diners, and carts groaning under the weight of mouth-watering foods—dim sum is a dining experience unlike any other.

For the uninitiated, here’s how it typically works: diners are seated at an already set table with a pot of tea. Servers circulate throughout the room with wheeled carts loaded with different types of dishes and stop at each table. If you see something you want, they’ll leave it on your table and check it off on your order slip. It pays to be adventurous with your selections! The restaurants listed below are some of the best places in Calgary to indulge in a traditional Chinese dim sum feast.

Tips for Enjoying Dim Sum

• The dishes are meant to be shared by the whole table family-style rather than each individual ordering their own.

• Each place setting gets a small bowl and a small plate. The bowl is for eating out of and the plate is for discarding bones or other stuff you don’t want to eat.

• While chopsticks are standard, it’s okay to ask for a fork if needed.

• When the teapot is empty, turn the lid upside down and place the pot near the edge of the table to signal that you need a refill.

• If you spot something you want on a cart across the room, it’s acceptable to walk over to the cart to be served rather than waiting for it to come to you.

• If you want something particular and don’t see it on the carts, just ask—most places are willing to have the kitchen make it for you.

• It’s fine to ask for a to-go container for leftovers. Diners will often order quite a bit more than they can eat with the intention of taking the extras home.

Silver Dragon Restaurant
Arrive before noon, as the dining room fills up quickly and the line to get in to this second-storey restaurant can go all the way downstairs to the street. They have the standard dim sum offerings such as ha gow (a shrimp-filled dumpling with a translucent wheat starch wrapper) and shumai (an open-topped dumpling filled with pork), as well as some less common options like hatosi, a small piece of toast coated with minced shrimp and deep-fried.
• 106 – 3 Ave SE, 403-264-5326

A server dishes up steaming packets of sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves at Silver Dragon Restaurant. (Photo: Laura Johnston)

A server dishes up steaming packets of sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves at Silver Dragon Restaurant. (Photo: Laura Johnston)

U & Me Restaurant
If you’re struck by a sudden dim sum craving at 2 am, head straight to U & Me. Open from 8 am to 4 am, it’s one of the few places in Calgary to get any meal that late, let alone dim sum. Don’t miss the deep-fried shrimp dumplings served with a dollop of mayonnaise or the zhaliang, fried dough wrapped in a flat sheet of rice noodle.
• 223 Centre St S, 403-264-5988, www.uandmerestaurant.ca

Dragon Chinese Restaurant
This relative newcomer to Calgary’s restaurant scene opened in 2013. The décor is impressive, with plenty of red, gold and—naturally—dragons. Rather than choosing from carts, customers simply check off the dishes they want on a list and servers bring it out from the kitchen. Try the steamed buns stuffed with crabmeat paste, and for dessert, the “wolfberry jello” made with goji berries and lychee.
• 200, 118 – 5 Ave SE, 403-718-0088, dragonchinese.wordpress.com

Regency Palace
Located on the upper floor of the Dragon City Mall, this large dining room serves up dim sum from the traditional carts as well as buffet style. If you’re tired of waiting for the carts to come around, just go up to the buffet and pick out what you want (remember to bring your order slip so the buffet attendant can check off your selections).
• 335, 328 Centre Street S, 403-777-2288, www.regencypalacerestaurant.com

Ginger Beef Bistro House
Don’t let the name fool you—the dim sum is authentic here. The clean, contemporary restaurant also offers an additional perk in that you can watch the chefs at work in the kitchen through a large window. They’re known for their ginger beef (of course), Peking duck, and xiaolongbao, a difficult-to-make Shanghai style dumpling filled with soup.
• 400, 388 Country Hills Blvd NE, 403-265-1616, www.gingerbeef.com
• 9629 Macleod Tr SW, 403-271-2233

5 Vegetarian Restaurants in Calgary

By RACHAEL FREY & STACEY PARKER

Lotus Root Salad at The Coup (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Lotus Root Salad at The Coup (Photo: Jason Dziver)

If you’re a vegetarian, you must love salad—because if you don’t, there won’t be a single thing you can eat on most restaurant menus. Fortunately for your taste buds, these five Calgary restaurants are turning out (mostly) vegetarian menus loaded with options.

THE COUP
Be sure to arrive with time to spare in order to gain entry to this 17th Avenue hotspot. Well known and loved among Calgary’s vegetarians, The Coup is entirely vegetarian with a focus on fresh, whole, local, organic food. Vegans and gluten-free diners will be comfortable here as well. Don’t forget to try one of their unique cocktails such as the Kombucha Gimlet with schizandra berry, rose, citrus, vodka and elderflower liqueur, topped with hibiscus rose kombucha.
Must Try: Lotus Root Salad (pictured). Okay, technically this is a salad, but it’s a lot more hearty and flavourful than the standard pile of lettuce. Warm Asian greens, lotus root and organic cherry tomatoes are dressed in a citrus ponzu sauce, then topped with toasted pine nuts and perfectly crisped tofu.
• 924 – 17 Ave SW, 403-541-1041, www.thecoup.ca
Map and reviews
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You Gotta Eat Here in Calgary

By RACHAEL FREY

Comedian John Catucci hosts Food Network's You Gotta Eat Here. (Photo: courtesy Shaw Media)

Comedian John Catucci hosts Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here. (Photo: courtesy Shaw Media)

From posh urban eateries to down-home country diners, Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here showcases beloved Canadian restaurants, with host John Catucci sampling the most outrageous and mouth-watering dishes the nation’s chefs can concoct.

Fans of the show don’t have to just sit at home and drool, though. Head over to one of the 17 Calgary restaurants featured on the show’s four seasons and eat what John ate, or discover a hidden gem on the menu. You Gotta Eat Here airs Fridays at 7 pm on the Food Network.

BOOKERS BBQ GRILL + CRAB SHACK (Episode airs March 27)
This casual barbecue and seafood restaurant is serving up Southern classics like smokehouse brisket, crab legs by the bucket, blackened catfish, jambalaya, and smoked chicken wings. The rustic warehouse interior is the perfect backdrop for a button-popping feast—piles of all-you-can-eat crab legs and BBQ ribs are on the menu every Sunday.
What John Ate: We’ve heard he was forced to choose between crab legs and BBQ ribs—we’re definitely curious to see how many he was able to pack away!
316 – 3 St SE, 403-264-6419, www.bookersbbq.com

NAINA’S KITCHEN (Episode airs March 13)
Don’t let the size of the place fool you—this tiny family restaurant is making some of the best burgers in the city. The patties are stuffed with your choice of ingredients, from blue cheese to fresh jalapenos. The Nainalicious, which is stuffed with pulled pork, aged cheddar, caramelized onions, and Granny Smith apple, comes highly recommended.
What John Ate: We won’t know for sure until the episode airs, but frankly it would be weird if he didn’t try a stuffed burger. We’re guessing the Nainalicious was the star of the show.
2808 Ogden Rd SE, 403-263-6355, nainaskitchen.com

BEER REVOLUTION
Premium beer and wood-fired, thin crust pizza are served at this unpretentious rock ’n’ roll bar. The 24 draft lines change several times per week with a focus on breweries outside the mainstream. Try the Blazing Saddle Pizza with blackened steak, banana peppers, white cheddar, mozzarella, crispy onions, cajun remoulade, seasoned arugula and horseradish aioli.
What John Ate: Pizza Spring Rolls — crispy, deep-fried rolls filled with pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms, basil, mozzarella and spicy marinara sauce.
1080 – 8 St SW, 403-264-2739, beerrevolution.ca

GRUMANS CATERING AND DELICATESSEN
This little Jewish deli and catering in Victoria Park features matzo ball soup, potato knishes and Montreal smoked meat sandwiches, just a couple blocks away from the Stampede grounds. They are now serving weekend brunch, including Lox Eggs Benedict served on potato latkes and breakfast poutine with smoked meat, cheese curds, poached eggs and hollandaise.
What John Ate: Smoked Meat Shepherd’s Pie — Montreal smoked meat, sautéed onions, carrots and corn under a mashed potato crust, with a side of veal gravy.
• 2310 – 11 Ave SE, 403-261-9003, grumans.ca

THE FINE DINER
Located in Calgary’s historic community of Inglewood, The Fine Diner serves modern American-classic cuisine with locally sourced ingredients in a good ol’ fashioned ’40s style diner. A private room is available for social events and corporate functions. Try the Breakfast Burger with a homemade patty, caramelized onions, bacon and a sunnyside-up egg.
What John Ate: Meatloaf Sandwich — Homemade, juicy Angus beef meatloaf wrapped in bacon, served with house salad, duck fat fries, soup or honey roasted potatoes.
• 4, 1420 – 9 Ave SE, 403-234-8885, www.finedinercalgary.com

UNA PIZZA + WINE
This is 17th Avenue’s top stop for gourmet thin-crust pizza and Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, as evidenced by the line out the door. Try the popular veal and pork meatballs cooked in tomato sauce as well as pizza with prosciutto, ricotta and fresh arugula. Gluten-free pizza crust is available, and the kitchen is open until 1 am.
What John Ate: Mushroom Pizza — Roasted mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, grana padana cheese, arugula and truffle oil on UNA’s famous crust.
• 618 17 Ave SW, 403-453 -1183, unapizzeria.com

BIG FISH SEAFOOD RESTAURANT & OYSTER BAR 
A member of Vancouver Aquarium’s Oceanwise program, Big Fish is a cozy, creative restaurant devoted to sustainable seafood choices. Sample the Canadian oyster bar, which features six premium varieties of East and West Coast oysters. The wine list and after dinner drink menu are well worth checking out too, including the Dark & Stormy Float made with Legendario Cuban rum, spicy ginger beer and cinnamon ice cream.
What John Ate: Soft Shell Crab Club Sandwich — An entire succulent, deep-fried soft shell crab topped with wild boar bacon and organic tomatoes.
• 1112 Edmonton Tr NE, 403-277-3403, big-fish.ca

BIG T’s BBQ & SMOKEHOUSE
True Southern barbecue with slow-smoked barbecue ribs, chicken, pulled pork and more, served with tasty homemade sides such as cornbread, hush puppies and deep-fried pickles. Meals are meant to be eaten family-style, with everyone digging in to the same dishes. Big T’s has a casual vibe and a great bourbon selection.
What John Ate: The Elvis Platter — A massive pile of meat with smoked brisket, pulled pork, St. Louis ribs, half chicken, rib ends, Andouille sausage, coleslaw, beans, fries, gravy, cornbread and buns.
• 2138 Crowchild Tr NW, 403-284-5959, www.bigtsbbq.com

You Gotta Eat Here airs Fridays at 7 pm on the Food Network. (Photo: courtesy Shaw Media)

You Gotta Eat Here airs Fridays at 7 pm on the Food Network. (Photo: courtesy Shaw Media)

BOOGIE’S BURGERS
An impressive selection of burgers are available at Boogie’s, including the Deep Fried Mac-n-Cheese Burger with one patty, cheddar and three deep-fried mac ‘n’ cheese wedges. June’s Jerk Chicken Burger is also highly recommended. Sides include regular fries, spicy fries, yam fries, yam chips and onion rings.
What John Ate: Doug’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” Burger — Four beef patties, four slices of bacon, a butterflied wiener, cheddar, a fried egg, Boogie’s signature red sauce, lettuce, tomato and onion, topped with a mini corndog.
• 908 Edmonton Tr NE, 403-230-7070, boogiesburgers.com

BOXWOOD
Local, seasonal and sustainable cuisine is what’s for lunch at Boxwood, the little sister of the renowned River Café. Located in the historic Central Memorial Park, the café offers inventive dishes like organic citrus chili popcorn and chickpea fritters alongside the stars of the show, juicy rotisserie meats such as roast lamb and organic chicken. Take home warm oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
What John Ate: Spragg Farm Roasted Porchetta Sandwich — Rotisserie porchetta topped with cilantro salsa verde, arugula and pork cracklings.
• 340 – 12 Ave SW, 403-265-4006, www.boxwoodcafe.ca

HOLY GRILL
A small, casual café with style located in the heart of Calgary’s Beltline, the specialty is gourmet burgers with toppings such as blue cheese, avocado and red onion. Try the Californian, a vegetarian panini made with sun-dried tomatoes, cream cheese, artichoke hearts, marinated eggplant, banana peppers and tomatoes.
What John Ate: South Beach Bennies — Two poached eggs, Roma tomato, avocado and hollandaise on an English muffin, served with a side of smashbrowns.
• 827 – 10 Ave SW, 403-261-9759, holygrill.ca

DINER DELUXE
This brightly-lit diner with a funky, retro vibe serves all-day breakfast as well as contemporary takes on comfort foods. Expect it to be busy, especially on weekend mornings, but the wait is worth it for dishes like Huevos Rancheros with over easy eggs, jalapeño-lime chicken, roasted red peppers, salsa verde and cilantro sour cream over corn tortillas.
What John Ate: Maple Fried Oatmeal — A slab of oatmeal with dried cranberries fried in maple syrup, then drenched in vanilla bean cream and lemon curd.
• 804 Edmonton Tr NE, 403-276-5499, www.dinerdeluxe.com

FAT CITY FRANKS
A diner in Mission serving hot dogs with creative toppings, like the Ukrainian Dog with potato and cheddar perogy filling, sautéed onions, bacon bits and sour cream or the traditional Chicago Dog with a pickle, tomato, onions, cucumber, celery salt and hot pepper. Classic sides like potato salad and coleslaw as well as vintage malted milkshakes and old-fashioned sodas are also available.
What John Ate: Breakfast Dog — A classic hot dog topped with cream cheese and chive scrambled eggs, cheddar and real bacon bits.
• 2015 – 4 St SW, 403-229-3641, www.fatcityfranks.com

JELLY MODERN DOUGHNUTS
This gourmet doughnut bakery and café offers a sophisticated update on the classic Canadian treat. The tantalizing options include a carrot cake doughnut topped with a cinnamon marscapone glaze, or Nenshi’s Salted Caramel dipped in caramel ganache with maple butter drizzle and a sprinkle of sea salt. They also have sandwiches on plain doughnuts.
What John Ate: Maple Bacon Doughnut — A Canadian favourite, this sticky treat is dipped in brown maple glaze and topped with crumbled Valbella bacon.
• 1414 – 8 St SW, 403-453-2053, jellymoderndoughnuts.com

PFANNTASTIC PANNENKOEK HAUS 
This homey Dutch eatery turns pancakes into meals. More like a thick crepe than a typical Canadian pancake, there’s dozens to choose from including the savoury favourite of potato, onion, bacon and cheese, or the popular Black Forest (Zwarte Woud) with warm cherries, ice cream, whipped cream and orange liqueur in a chocolate cup.
What John Ate: Philly Cheese (Steak Met Smeerkaas) Pannenkoek — Steak, peppers, onions, mushrooms and cheese cooked into a pancake, with a side of barbecue sauce.
• 2439 – 54 Ave SW, 403-243-7757, www.dutchpancakes.ca

TUBBY DOG
A hip diner specializing in large hot dogs with unusual toppings, like the PBJ topped with peanut butter, grape jelly and Cap’n Crunch or the Sumo Dog with wasabi mayo, seaweed, pickled ginger and sesame seeds. The décor is almost as interesting as the menu, with a quirky retro vibe that pays homage to Saturday morning cartoons and arcade video games.
What John Ate: Sherm’s Ultimate Gripper — A bacon-wrapped dog on a bed of chili, topped with mustard, banana peppers, sautéed onions, grilled ham, a fried egg and nacho cheese.
• 1022 – 17 Ave SW, 403-244-0694, www.facebook.com/Tubby.Dog.Hot.Dogs

DINING IN CALGARY? CHECK OUT:
• Perfect Patios: Where to Dine Outdoors in Calgary
• Calgary’s Best Eats: Where to Dine Awards 2013
• 10 Calgary Restaurants for Gluten-Free Diners

Perfect Patios: Where to Dine Outdoors in Calgary

By RACHAEL FREY

The Living Room's patio is an excellent spot to people-watch on 17th Avenue SW. (Photo: courtesy The Living Room)

The Living Room’s patio is an excellent spot to people-watch on 17th Avenue SW. (Photo: courtesy The Living Room)

When summer arrives, the city’s outdoor restaurant patios bloom. Here is a sample of Calgary’s best places to eat, drink and socialize in the sun.

THE LIVING ROOM
514 – 17 Ave SW, 403-228-9830, livingroomrestaurant.com
Hours: Mon – Fri, 11 am – 2 pm and 5 pm – 12 am; Sun, 5 pm – 12 am.
Venue and Vibe: Plush and contemporary, serving family-style dishes meant to be lingered over in good company.
Patio Appeal: Two outdoor fireplaces and light-wrapped trees cast a warm glow.
Sun and Shade: Mostly shade with dappled sunlight.
The View: Great street-level people watching on 17th Ave Retail & Entertainment District.
Recommends: Cheese fondue with aged white cheddar, black truffle and truffle oil, plus your choice of meat, seafood and veggies to dip. Pair with a light, dry white wine.

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Decades of Decadence: One Family’s Epic Eats

By IAN DOIG

Decades of Decadence is a cookbook by local food writer Rebecca Klemke (Photo: Rebecca Klemke)

Decades of Decadence recently won a Gourmand World Cookbook award in the Historical Recipes category. (Photo: Rebecca Klemke)

Author and food blogger Rebecca Klemke is a member of one of the city’s first families of food. Her uncle Pat O’Connor is the founding owner of Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts (CRMR). The company’s boutique resort hotels and game-focused restaurants (including Cilantro and Bar C) are definitively Western Canadian, sourcing much of their ingredients from the region and the group’s own ranch.

Decades of Decadence is Klemke’s first cookbook and not only catalogues her family recipes, but the clan’s cuisine-centric passion for life. It was recently accredited as being among the Best in the World in the Historical Recipes category at the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook and Wine Book Awards.

Rebecca Klemke, author of Decades of Decadence (Photo: courtesy Rebecca Klemke)

Rebecca Klemke, author of Decades of Decadence. (Photo: courtesy Rebecca Klemke)

What kind of cookbook is Decades of Decadence?
Bursting with over 300 recipes, it allows readers to choose their own adventure with food. From cocktail parties to romantic dates, summer cooking, holiday spirits, extravagant feasts or just dinner with friends and/or family.

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B-Side Dinner & Drinks: Eat at the Bar in Calgary

By ANGELA NEUFELD

Bartender Travis Whitney shares a laugh with patrons at Avec Bistro (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Bartender Travis Whitney shares a laugh with patrons at Avec Bistro (Photo: Jason Dziver)

When you’re out for dinner and drinks in Calgary, consider requesting a seat at the bar. Bartender banter, cocktail clatter and the sociable setting of a communal elbow rest deliver an instant dose of nightlife. Also on the plus side, most venues’ dinner menus can be enjoyed at the bar sans (typically) reservations. Below is a guide to a varied assortment of great restaurant bars.

AVEC BISTRO
The Bar: Bright and contemporary, its blonde wood backbar and red bar seats are a fun and modern twist to this French bistro.
The Appeal: You can cozy up to your dinner date at this intimate six-seater. The rustic French food far exceeds its price tag.
The Feel: Refined yet happily casual.
Specials: Occasional weekend special: homemade ice cream sandwiches, seafood du jour.
Bar Reservations: Call ahead on Fri and Sat.
Recommends: Steak frites with béarnaise and aioli paired with a fine French red. Or the Drink French Fluently cocktail made with St. Germain liqueur and Champagne.
Hours: Mon – Thu, 11:30 – 2:30, 5 pm – 10 pm; Fri, 11:30 – 2:30, 5 pm – 11 pm; Sat, 5 pm – 11 pm; Sun, closed
• Avec Bistro, 105, 550 – 11 Ave SW, 587-352-0964, www.avecbistro.com
• Map and reviews

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A New Rush: One of Calgary’s Top Restaurants Reinvented

By IAN DOIG

Rush Ocean Prime's Seafood Tower (Photo: courtesy Rush Ocean Prime)

Rush Ocean Prime’s Seafood Tower (Photo: courtesy Rush Ocean Prime)

Soon after opening in 2008, Rush was declared one of the country’s top restaurants, and according to Wine Spectator, the contemporary, upscale eatery also maintains one of its best wine lists. It was also certainly one of the city’s most beautiful rooms, featuring lux seating, glass dividers and a visible wine cellar. Despite its glowing critical reputation, the trend-setting eatery has undergone a major reinvention that even includes a new name: Rush Ocean Prime.

Pat Soul, vice president, premium brands, of Vintage Group, which owns Rush, says the critical acclaim didn’t always resonate with patrons. Two and a half years in the planning, it has been given a major renovation as well as new lunch and dinner menus. This carefully planned evolution, Soul says, retains its fine-dining ambitions but is simply more approachable.

“You can expect a less pretentious, more relaxed vibe,” he says. “An open, upbeat atmosphere in the lounge and that same luxurious dining room. Like the new model year of a great car, it’s just a revised, better version.”

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