Archive for the 'eating out' Category

Cowboy Trail: from the Bar U Ranch to Longview

Bar U Ranch 1Bar U 2

For all my whingeing about the end of summer, I adore fall – it’s my favourite time of year. I look for any excuse to hit the highway – in any direction, but I particularly love heading southwest of the city, along the Cowboy Trail, to Priddis and Millarville, Black Diamond and Turner Valley.

Me + barley field
Bar U 3

A couple weekends ago, we helped with a barley harvest out at Bar U Ranch, a preserved working ranch and the only National Historic Site to commemorate the history of ranching in Canada. The Bar U was one of the first large scale cattle ranching operations in Canada, at one time ranging 30,000 head of cattle on 160,000 acres of grassland, and held a stock of 1,000 purebred Percherons. To sum its legacy from the Friends of the Bar U Ranch website: The ranch fed workers building the first transcontinental railway and waves of immigrants, Canada’s first Indian reservations, the first patrols of Northwest Mounted Police, our nation through the Great Depression and our soldiers through two World Wars. Bar U Percherons, “the work horses that powered North America,” built our cities and roads and pulled our trolleys and fire wagons, from New York City to Victoria, British Columbia.

bar u 6

And here’s something cool – in the visitor orientation building, there was a wagon filled with bags of locally grown produce – plucked from peoples’ back yard gardens – to take in exchange for a donation to the High River Food Bank. I loaded up on carrots, potatoes and onions.

bar u 5

Amazing, right? And it’s within an hour’s drive from Calgary. A gorgeous drive that will take you past the Millarville Market if you go on a Saturday morning (it wraps up Thanksgiving weekend!). Anyone can visit – they offer some great experiences – you can rope a runaway steer, sip some cowboy coffee, go on a wagon ride or check out the cookhouse. On this particular occasion, we were invited to come help with the harvest – everyone who showed up worked with Percheron-drawn 1940s farm equipment to harvest the barley that will be used in the distillation of gin, vodka and other spirits at Eau Claire Distillery in nearby Turner Valley.


Eau Claire, if you haven’t been (and even if you have) is also a must-stop – not only because they’re Alberta’s first craft distillery, producing some of the best gin and vodka you’ll ever have (and soon, Alberta’s first single malt whisky!) – but because you can sit and sip and taste and ask questions, and get a tour of the facility, buy beautiful and delicious things, and then go next door to the Chuckwagon Cafe for a burger or flat iron steak eggs Benedict. (The owner, Terry, raises his own cattle – the beef is dry aged 24 days and sublime. The burgers are more than worth the drive – as are the diner-style pies, baked by a local lady.)

Chuckwagon Cafe 1

Speaking of pie – and are there any better than those procured in small Alberta farming towns? – there is also pie to be had at the old-school Black Diamond Bakery.

Black diamond

Turner Valley and Black Diamond are next door neighbours, maybe five minutes apart. We always pull over at the bakery, which is conveniently located next door to Marv’s Classic Soda Shop. Typically, W goes into Marv’s to peruse the interesting sodas, ice cream and other sweet stuff, while I giddily load up on perfect Nanaimo bars, the very best (slightly runny, with raisins) butter tarts, cream puffs, farm-sized loaves of bread and pie at the linoleum-lined bakery next door.

bakery 1
bakery 2

I am starving, writing this.

We poked around the town a little more this time before heading toward the Bar U. There are always great curios shops – and beside one of them, another makeshift farmer’s market, featuring a truck pulled into a vacant lot and a single farmer standing at a couple tables unfolded under a single tent.


Who needs Williams-Sonoma when there are places like this?

junk 1
curios shops

We poked around, looking at old 8 tracks and vintage kitchenware while waiting for take-out burgers to be made at a different spot – the Black Grill – a trailer with a makeshift patio that we decided to stop at when W suddenly realized he was hungry. We decided to be more thorough with our burger research. (The Chuckwagon, for the record, always wins all burger contests. But we did our due diligence.)


Next, Longview is the last stop before the Bar U. Longview is small and beautiful and known for its beef. The recently relocated Longview Steakhouse is widely known as one of the best places to get a steak in Alberta. (You’ll want reservations.)

longview steakhouse

A little further down the road, the Longview Jerky Shop – yes, there’s an entire building dedicated to jerky – always has a lineup. The jerky is unlike any other, available in dozens of flavours, and the fridge is packed with other cured meats, like thick-cut bacon that costs about half what you’d pay at a butcher in the city. Also worth the drive.

Longview jerky

If you’re looking for a beautiful (and delicious) way to spend a day before the snow flies, I strongly recommend heading southwest for some meat, pie and history.

I love showing off my home province – thanks to Travel Alberta for helping me do it! As always, words and opinions are my own.

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September 30 2015 | eating out | 4 Comments »

Calgary Folk Fest: an Eaters’ Guide

prince's island
Slowfood collage 1

Most summers, we’re out in Tofino when the Calgary Folk Music Festival takes over Prince’s Island in the heart of Calgary. The festival is legendary, drawing musicians from around the world and inspiring Calgarians to stick around and plan their holidays around FolkFest weekend.

From the time it first showed up on my radar, I knew it for the food – the curries and Joy’s ginger beer, in the early years. This year is the 36th annual, and they’ve outdone themselves – besides the 76 bands from 16 countries on 8 stages playing concerts and holding workshops and collaborative sessions, there are some seriously fantastic local eats. (And drinks, of course – you’ll find Big Rock in the ultra-popular beer garden.)

Taiko Taco
cfmf 1

People know it for the running of the tarps – I go for the eating of the food. I work up an appetite walking or biking down, and then navigate the food lineups. If you go early, they’re not bad – but even once they start snaking down the path, they move quickly – and it’s such a great atmosphere down there, that even standing in line is a good time. (And hey, there’s live music everywhere.)

folkfest 1

This year – their 36th – the food offerings are better than ever; in addition to a dozen or so food trucks lining a stretch from the main entrance to the main stage – including Cheezy Biz, Yummy Yogis and Avatara (the crispy pizzas I saw walking by all night) – Naaco launched their first east Indian pop-up, Ishk, next door to their truck. Also: Popsicles from Top Pop! Churros and Chai!


Of course Slow Food Calgary always has a presence there – and like the CFMF food scene itself, each year it gets better. They’re in a tent you can’t miss as soon as you come in the main gates, by the bike park – a great team of local chefs, producers and volunteers working to bring the best Calgary has to offer.

slow food tent 1

Last night dinner was courtesy of Sidewalk Citizen – big plates of shaved greens with local roasted duck, tart plums, sprouted lentils, ricotta cheese, pickled shallot and grainy mustard vinaigrette served with a slice of Aviv’s sourdough.

Slow food at Folkfest 3

The menu is different every day this weekend, and the lineup includes jerk roasted chicken carnitas with green bean summer slaw, smoked chickpeas and green crema from River Cafe, Market’s honey tomato glazed braised lamb ribs with potato salad, wine braised beef brisket on sundried tomato pasta salad from Soffritto, the Coup’s skewered and grilled cherry tomatoes, peppers, radish and smoked tofu wrapped in whole wheat pita with Greek salad and herb tzatziki, Cornerstone Music Cafe’s pork chorizo sausage on wild rice, lentil and kale salad with peaches, almonds, and Brassica mustard vinaigrette, and from Slow Food Calgary, whole wheat pitas with turkey confit, roast veggies and tossed green salad with saskatoon berry vinaigrette and the Slow Food Best Breakfast – buttermilk biscuits with pork sausage, eggs, 1608 cheese and tomato jam. Seriously.

Made by Marcus

And snacks! There’s a freezer stocked with Made by Marcus ice cream bars – W chose chocolate almond over birthday cake – and there are bags of Poppycock from Double Elle Bakery and scones, brownies, cookies and granola bars from the Slow Food kitchen. You can even pick up paper bags of fresh fruit – BC peaches on Thursday night – from Sunnyside Market.

Slow food at Folkfest 2

(Slowfood Calgary is also working with Sunnyside Market, Amaranth Whole Foods Market, Community Natural Foods, SPUD, Lambtastic, Highwood Crossing, Spragg Pork, Blue Mountain Bio-Dynamic Farm, Greens Eggs and Ham, Winter’s Turkey, County Thyme Farm, Saskatoon Farm, Chinook Honey, Grainworks, Seeds to Greens, Mans Organics, Mans Eggs, Heritage Harvest, Poplar Bluff, Bowden Farms, Broxburn, Vital Greens, Gull Valley, Trails End Beef, Top Grass Beef, Layalta Gardens, Leaf & Lyre, Cucumber Man, Sudo Farms, Seasons Harvest, Basil Ranch, Fairwinds Farm, Edgar Farms, Schipper Farms, Peasant Cheese, Blush Lane, Naked Leaf, Eight Ounce, Webber Mountainside Farms, Galimax Trading, Brassica Mustard, Sprouting Roots, and SAIT Hospitality – a great lineup of local food representing our culinary scene.)

Slow food at Folkfest 3

Tucked in between the trucks, Empanada Queen is onsite serving up their amazing hand-made empanadas. (Offsite, they’re in a teeny strip mall on Manilla Road, just off Blackfoot Trail and 42nd Ave SE, where their empanadas are made to order – they also make chorillana, freshly cut fries topped with a sautéed mix of egg, onions, beef and chorizo, like Chilean poutine.)

phil seb 3

Phil & Sebastian have two tents, for all your caffeine needs – the location by the main stage is even serving up affogatos – a scoop of vanilla Fiasco gelato, topped with a shot of espresso. (W opted for a blue raspberry sno-cone.) Is there a better way to have your coffee in late July?

Snow cone + affogato

I also love the cold brew stubbies – in coolers, on ice.

Phil & Seb cold Brew

Kids under 12 are free at Folkfest – W came along, and chose a ham and cheese crepe, folded into quarters so that it could be eaten out of hand. I have to remember this one – we make crepes in the mornings all the time out in Tofino, and this particular combination has great beach potential.


Also worth noting: CFMF’s green efforts. I love their plate policy – pay a $2 deposit when you get a dish that’s served on a (heavy plastic) plate, and when you’re done, return it to any plate tent to get your $2 back. Garbage bins are sealed and visitors are directed to compost and recycling bins in an attempt to make it a zero waste event, and there’s no bottled water being sold on the island – bring your own water bottle and there are portable water stations around the park to fill them from. (Which have built-in water fountains, too.) The CFMF recycles materials from cardboard to organics, provides tree seedlings to participants to offset carbon emissions, uses compostable cutlery and dishware. Their waste diversion rate has increased by over 45% since 2008, when the festival began measuring its total waste production – increasing steadily to 80% in 2014.

cfmf 2

The festival runs through this weekend – you can check out the artists here and the schedule here – but to check out the food, you gotta get down there.

I love showing off the place I live – thanks to Travel Alberta for helping me do it! As always, words and opinions are my own.

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July 24 2015 | eating out | 4 Comments »

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