Friday, August 5, 2016


Perhaps you've heard this joke:

What's the most exciting tourist thing to do in Calgary?  Leave Calgary.

I wasn't expecting much out of Calgary.  I was expecting to head back to Canmore today. However, Mindy had found a food tour that caught her attention, and Paul and Stella spoke well of the seemingly endless river path and Fish Creek Provincial Park. We may be in Calgary for the last time in our lives today, so let's see what there is to see. I was suitably impressed.

The food tour started at the acclaimed restaurant Rouge, where we sat outside under the shelter of an awning, overlooking the vegetable gardens. Our lunch showcased produce from the gardens, as the restaurant aims to have every plate include something from the Rouge gardens.

Prior to eating, the guide had us each introduce ourselves as we sat around the table. When asked why I was in Alberta, I mentioned a race in northern Alberta. One of our fellow tour attendees interrupted: "The Death Race?" Yes, I replied. "You won, didn't you?"  Followed by "You two got engaged?" as he gestured to Mindy and me. Indeed! With a surprised and flattered smile, I asked how he knew. "CBC Radio." I guess they do have a bit of a following....

The presence of local Calgarians in the food tour reinforced a plan I had hatched the day before to take Mindy on a Toronto food tour for her upcoming birthday. (I can write this in my blog because later that day she told me that's what she wants for her birthday. So much for the surprise!) It really seems like a great way to explore your city.

From Rouge we traveled to various food-related shops and restaurants.  Highlights included the Silk Road, a spice merchant where I learned the three types of cinnamon (the flowery Sri Lankan true cinnamon, Indonesian cassia, and the potent Vietnamese "Saigon" Cinnamon - technically another type of cassia). We also witnessed the mixing of a Silk Road specialty - Turkish Baharat - and took home a sampling. Goes really well on tofu with quinoa!

The Tea Trader - "selling tea since 93" - gave us a new appreciation for traditional fine teas, without any steamed milk or flavoured syrup! As a tea aficionado, myself, this encouraged me back into the tea habit.

Spolumbo's deli was underwhelming for me, being neither a fan of sausage nor the CFL. I do give them credit for staying true to old world ways with all natural sausages and no filler.

Sugo, on the other hand - for handmade burrata and fior di latte cheeses - was incredible! We were watching a true craftsman as the 60-year old staff member made cheese the way his mother taught him back in Italy. As the restaurant is only open for dinner, we got a special treat at lunch, with the restaurant all to ourselves.

In a recurring theme among Calgary's food scene, the owners of Sugo also grow as many fruits (tomatoes), vegetables and herbs for the restaurant as they can.  Apparently, it takes an hour to water one of their gardens each day!

This massive plant beside Mindy is basil. That must make an incredible Caprese salad!

Not the tastiest stop, but certainly an interesting one, Knifewear turns samurai sword-making techniques to a new purpose - kitchen knives. The knives are perfectly balanced, and cut through a tomato or potato like a hot...well, knife...through butter!

 The last official stop, I suppose, was Bricks Wine Company.

A true foodie's liquor store, Bricks includes pairing notes and recommendations throughout the store.  On this hot day, we were treated to an exotic cocktail. I enjoyed it, but might have preferred if they had taken their own tips on food pairing:

I did start the food tour by stating that my favourite food was wine and cheese!

Finally, the last stop on our tour was the Dean House, a restaurant that is anticipated to open in September. As the kitchen and dining room are still under renovations, the Chef treated us to cookies in the gardens around the restaurant. (If Calgary weren't so far away, Mindy and I might have found those gardens worth exploring for future use.) Perched on the shore of the Bow River, the restaurant is poised to be one of the best in Calgary, focusing on contemporary Canadian cuisine. (Think Canoe in Toronto.)  Perhaps if we find ourselves back in Calgary someday we can check out their main courses.

We wandered back along the Bow River to the downtown to retrieve our car and depart Calgary. Edmonton is calling for tonight. Along the way ,we drove through the town that didn't quite measure up to Innisfil in Ontario...

...and, of course, my favourite city in Alberta.

The doorman at the Edmonton River Cree hotel (which isn't actually in Edmonton but is in Enoch, the First Nations Reserve beside Edmonton) lived in Oshawa when he was younger.  Small world. The room wasn't quite as impressive as our last two nights, but the view as the sun set on the day was perfect.

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