Archive for the 'eating out' Category

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
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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.)

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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.

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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.

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(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.)

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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.

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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 »

Real Baked Beans + Medicine Hat

Baked beans 1

We’ve become hooked on short-haul trips to small towns we’ve never explored in our own province. W asked if we could go on another adventure as soon as he finished school, and so we obliged by packing up the car and driving to Medicine Hat on Friday afternoon – as good a place to go as any when the forecast tipped beyond 30 degrees. The temperature in southern Alberta this weekend ranged from about 34-38 – no better time to hunker down in a hotel that has air conditioning and a water slide. (Also: no obligation to cook, do dishes or laundry.) We beat the heat with a visit to Tino’s drive-in (hilariously thin burgers, but people apparently go for the chili fries, and the ice cream was cold) and Swirls Ice Cream (my fave).


Because I’m a full-on coffee snob, Mike walked across the street to Tim Horton’s while I went in search of a proper cappuccino. The Station Coffee Co in downtown Medicine Hat brews Fratello beans, has some sufficiently dense and sticky cinnamon buns and squares, and is right across the street from one of the prettiest garden centres I’ve been to, with one of the many weathered brick walls you’ll see around town acting as a backdrop. Warning: it’s closed on Sundays. I KNOW. I would have bought two on Saturday and drank the other one cold. See? Coffee snob.

the station
MedHat Garden Centre

Hop across the river (I do love a town that has bridges) and you’ll find Zucchini Blossom Café, a cute little coffee shop in an equally adorable old-school block of awesome little spots – it’s a haven of baked goods, soups, salads, sandwiches and pizza – I took a cold slice of veggie pizza with me, and wound up polishing the whole thing off in the car, along with perfectly tart apple-rhubarb crumble.

zucchini blossom

A couple doors down, Skinny’s Smokehouse serves up hickory smoked pulled pork, ribs, chicken and some of the best brisket I’ve had – with cold Cokes in glass bottles and rolls of paper towel (always a good sign) and Mad magazine on the tabletops.

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You can take home meat by the pound, their own barbecue sauces, or try a porkzilla – pulled pork, bacon and sausage on a soft bun. Everything comes with a side, and we tried all of them – dill-heavy potato salad, chili-spiced baked beans and truly great slaw – a rarity, it seems. And I was hooked on the thinly sliced quick pickles – I finished everyone’s off.

Skinny's 1

Apparently, people go for Thai food when in Medicine Hat. I did not know this. Fortunately, I know people who did, and they tipped us off. The Thai Orchid Room, set in the back of a sleepy new strip mall by the highway with not much around it – is not something we could have stumbled upon, but the curry and pad Thai were some of the best I’ve had. And I learned a new cocktail: gin + pomegranate juice + champagne (or prosecco), which I want to name the Alberta Summer, but I think in order to have that name it should be made with rhubarb.

Thai orchid

(These photos do not give this pad Thai and peanut curry justice. Truly.)

On Sunday morning, after discovering that most of wee downtown Medicine Hat is closed on Sundays, we hopped over to the 1912 Medalta Pottery Factory – a national historic site (!!) in the clay district, joking in the 37 degree heat that some kids get to go to Disneyland, others’ parents drag them to small town pottery museums.



Medalta kiln
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It was fascinating, to all of us – in a century-old factory with a row of enormous beehive kilns out front you could actually go into, it was part working ceramic studio with artists in residence, and part original factory, where in the early 1900s workers made ceramic urns, pots, jugs and dishes that were shipped around the world.

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For centuries, the South Saskatchewan River deposited alluvial silt along its banks, creating rich deposits of clay that was found to have great ceramic and brick making potential. That combined with a formation that kept the area in cheap natural gas meant Medicine Hat was a hub of industrial activity at the time.

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medalta 2

Also: they made bean pots. This, as you know, is right up my alley.

soaking beans
medalta bean pot 2

In Canada’s early days, when home cooking was done in a large central fireplace, whomever was charged with feeding everyone would simmer beans in heavy Medalta pots nestled in the coals at the back of the fireplace – behind the breads and pies, where it could stay and simmer for hours. The pots were hardy enough to be passed from generation to generation – and so when we exited the exhibit into the gift shop and they actually had some, I bought one – and it came with their real baked bean recipe tucked inside. I made a pot today, regardless of the fact that it was close to 30 outside. (If you don’t have a bean pot, you could bake these in any heavy baking dish – or do them in the slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours; that way they won’t heat up your house.)

medalta baked beans 1

Real Medalta Baked Beans

2 cups dry navy (little white) beans
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tbsp. grainy mustard
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl or medium pot, cover the beans with enough water to cover by a couple inches and let soak for 6-8 hours; alternatively, bring the two to a boil, cook for a minute, then remove from heat and let stand for 2 hours. Pour off the excess water. Preheat the oven to 325F.

Put the beans into a medium pot (if they aren’t already), add enough water to cover by a couple inches and bring to a simmer; cook for 30-40 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain, reserving the cooking water. Transfer the beans to your bean pot (or a heavy baking dish) and add the onion, garlic, ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, mustard, balsamic, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Add 2 cups of the leftover cooking water (add regular water to top it up if you need to) and stir to combine.

Bake, uncovered (this is the way I did it – the recipe didn’t specify) for 4-5 hours, or until the beans are tender and the sauce is thick and sticky around the edges. If they seem too dry, add more water.

Serves 8 or so.

This post was sponsored by Travel Alberta – a great partnership, since I love showing off this province so much. As always, all thoughts and words are my own.

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June 30 2015 | beans and eating out | 25 Comments »

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