A Trip To Calgary







A whistle-stop visit to Calgary recently showed that cowtown chefs are dishin’ up more than honkin’ big steaks (not that there is anything wrong that). We rolled into town just in the nick of time to catch a taste of Chef Justin LeBoe’s house-made sopressata, feather-light ravioli, tender octopus, scallop carpaccio, at uber stylish Lush, while cracker-jack sommelier Heather presented and poured wine. An early morning walk on Prince’s Island and eye-opener java in quaint Kensington neighbourhood preceded lunch at the River Café by the Bow River. Long celebrated for its fresh fare we could not have been happier with red-fife wheat sourdough, bra ised local rabbit and peach tart. I should point out that Nanaimo native, Chef Heather Gould-Hawke, whips up marvelous things with Alberta ingredients at down-to-earth District. We sampled the bucket of Broek Pork Acres’ bacon crisped and dipped into maple syrup, twice-fried frites, served solo with housemade ketchup, a damn fine bison burger and “charcuterie”, i.e beef not pork, from Canmore’s Valbella Meats.

Pastis’  “French comfort” October menu is in full swing. Wine-rich boeuf Bourgignon and Coq au Vin followed by a classic tarte tatin or profiteroles gives a nod to Julia Child. November will honour “La Chasse” (The hunt). Then there’s Rain City Grill’s Market Mondays. Recently Jordan Sturdy, of Pemberton Farm, foregoing blue jeans and Blundtstones for suit and tie was on hand to “tour” guests through a dinner featuring his farm’s diverse produce.

Cabernet, carmenere and syrah flowed when Chilean wine producers came to town. I only had time to taste a few, including a very good carmenere. Sutton Place also hosted Argentina’s winemakers. We loved the malbec and were surprised with Torontes, this floral and fruity and oh-so-food friendly white varietal.  Accompanying the winemakers was Chef Frederico Ziegler. He worked with the hotel’s kitchen to whip up beef ribs, chicken empenadas and other Argentine fare for the evening consumer event. Ziegler, like so many modern-thinking chefs, does his best to push local and fresh. “We are more than tango and beef, says Ziegler. “Patagonian lamb is very special because the vegetation is poor and the animals graze freely”. Over lunch at Le Crocodile, Ziegler sipped Blasted Church Pinot Gris and Joie Rosé. A mixed grill of halibut, wild salmon and prawns under Michel Jacob’s superb French touch duly impressed the Mendoza chef who glances at his dish, “Just like wonderful wine begins in the vineyard, wonderful food begins on the land or sea”. We look forward to Chef Ziegler’s return to the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival, when Argentina shares the spotlight with New Zealand.

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