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yyc dining

What’s new and noteworthy at Calgary bars

By SHAUNA MCGINN 

BE YOUR OWN BARTENDER
If there’s a place to learn how to make a proper drink it’s at Shelter YYC, where the ultra-cool vibe and unique style prove they’re at the cutting edge of cocktail connoisseurship. Shelter offers public classes on the rudiments — and, if you get that far, intricacies — of cocktail making, even for those who think they’re hopeless in the drink-crafting department. Sign up as an individual or with a group and learn the basics of putting together spirits with their respective mixes, as well as simple ways to get creative.

Photo courtesy Shelter YYC.

MODERN STEAK, PART TWO
This beloved Calgary steakhouse opened a second location mid-December in the Imperial Bank building, one of the prominent historical buildings on downtown’s Stephen Avenue. The restaurant’s first level is called Bar Modern, which has its own menu and unique atmosphere, while the second level houses the Modern Steak Calgarians know and love. Expect their stock of fresh Alberta beef locally sourced from family owned ranches on the menu. In addition to an excellent selection of steaks, find an array of seafood dishes and other complementary plates.

Photo courtesy Modern Steak.

NEW BREWS
Opened in the Beltline this past fall, this brewery boasts a 100 plus-seat taproom with floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal the magic happening in the brewing room just steps away. Joining Calgary’s impressive arsenal of over 30 craft breweries, Inner City has eight house-made beers on tap: four of them core brews, four seasonal. Their own creations include a hoppy blonde IPA called the Bridgelandia — named for Calgary’s Bridgeland neighbourhood — and a dark porter named after nearby Victoria Park.

Photo by Ryan Barr.

Chef Spotlight: Rogelio Herrera

By SHAUNA MCGINN

Rogelio Herrera has a succinct food philosophy: “I think local, but I cook global.” It’s also the perfect description of the diverse menu at Alloy, the upscale restaurant Herrera co-owns with Uri Heilik. Herrera has been head chef since Alloy opened 11 years ago.

Photo: Rafal Wegiel.

Originally from Colombia, Herrera’s mother raised him and his two siblings on her own, so learning to cook was more about being able to help out rather than a romantic pastime. “I don’t really have the beautiful story of the grandmother that was making Thanksgiving dinners and stuff like that,” Herrera says.“I kind of parachuted into the profession.” 

At 19, he left Colombia and worked in kitchens in places like France and Israel, and then on cruise ships throughout the Mediterranean. This exposure to different cuisines, along with his upbringing, are what continue to inspire Alloy’s fusion-style menu, which has lobster fettuccine next to Latin-inspired fare like duck arepas or wild prawn ceviche. 

“I’m a curious person by nature, so I’m always trying to do something innovative,” Herrera says. “I like to experiment a lot… and working with my cooks on a daily basis, they also teach me a lot.”

In terms of his own personal favourite dish, Herrera jokes that, “All of the things on the menu are like my kids — I don’t pick one over the other.” He says that while he enjoys trying new things, there are some dishes — namely the truffle gnocchi and braised short ribs — that are here to stay. “Those dishes have been there from the beginning and are untouchable,” Herrera says.

Having worked in the food industry in Calgary for over a decade, Herrera’s seen firsthand how the city’s restaurant scene has evolved. “Calgary has become one of the best cities (for dining) in Canada,” he says. “The restaurant community is very close. We collaborate a lot, and we also pull for each other — we want everybody to do well, and that sort of friendly competition pushes us to be better.”

Chef Spotlight: Jenny Kang

By SILVIA PIKAL

Eating farm-to-plate isn’t new for Jenny Kang — it was always a way of life. Kang, the executive chef of Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant, grew up on a farm in South Korea where her parents taught her the value of growing and picking your own food. “That’s how I grew up, so I know how different the flavour is,” Kang says.

Courtesy Great Events Group.

Kang brings that passion for fresh and local food to Bow Valley Ranche, which has its own garden. The restaurant is in a historical ranch house situated in a valley in Fish Creek Provincial Park. Every summer they bring fresh herbs they’ve grown into the kitchen. She’s committed to sourcing all their vegetables, grains and meats from local producers.

Kang’s cuisine is inspired by traditional Italian and French recipes, thanks to her background of working in several of Calgary’s fine dining establishments like Teatro and Catch, with Asian flavouring mixed in. “I have all the traditional and classic recipes and try to incorporate modern styles,” Kang says. She points to a popular item on the current menu — the Bouvry farm elk tartar with horseradish cream, cured yolk, truffle powder and parmesan.

One of her favourite parts of the job is developing new menus, from the Sunday Night Chef’s Table to menus for the multiple events they host in the building. Seeing a customer’s happiness after trying one of her meals keeps her energized and motivated in a demanding industry. “I love to cook for people. It makes me happy when they enjoy my food. I hope they taste the freshness of what we’re using.”

Kang invites patrons to walk the grounds, which offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. She’s always happy to share her passion for cooking farm-to-plate with other people. “I have the background so it’s easy for me, but people are thinking, ‘That’s not easy,’ but they can do it at home too. I can show them our garden.”

Your Ultimate Calgary BBQ Guide

By SILVIA PIKAL and RACHAEL FREY 

You don’t have to head south to get a taste of authentic barbecue — from St. Louis ribs to Carolina-style pulled pork to true-Texas brisket, Calgary chefs are bringing it home.

HAYDEN BLOCK SMOKE AND WHISKEY
The true-Texas barbecue at Hayden Block is a labour of perfectly smoked love. Located in the bohemian Kensington neighbourhood with both a street-side patio and a whiskey garden out back, the communal tables and chilled-out vibe set the stage for some downright delicious meat. Best done family- style (so you can taste more stuff), the food is served on old-school metal trays. Even vegetarians profess love for Hayden, with dishes like watermelon mint salad, deep fried pickles and gooey mac ‘n’ cheese gracing the menu. They also make three of their own sauces — don’t miss the espresso version.
Eat: The beef short rib.
Drink: Michter’s American.

Photo courtesy Hayden Block Smoke and Whisky.

HOLYSMOKE BBQ
When Alec Ferguson and Torin Shuster started Holysmoke BBQ, they recognized a need in the catering market for high-quality, delicious food that wouldn’t break the bank. Shuster, a lover of Southern barbecue, knew it would fit the bill. They opened their flagship location on Manhattan Road in the middle of an industrial park, and people quickly flocked to get a bite of tasty and sizable portions without a hefty price tag. The seating is banquet-style, so you could be rubbing shoulders with people in suits or coveralls and everything in between. “We often get remarks from American visitors that we succeeded in capturing the essence of Southern BBQ — no nonsense surroundings and keeping true to the recipes and methods,” Ferguson says.
Eat: Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich, Kansas City-style ribs, and Chef Shuster’s sweet corn bread.
Drink: Southern sweet tea.

BELLE SOUTHERN KITCHEN AND BAR
Belle’s tagline is “making barbecue beautiful” and it shows. The welcoming space showcases stylish picnic tables, a pink pig smoker, and the food is exquisitely presented on cookie trays. Wood is stacked neatly in the corner — you may catch staff picking up a piece for the smoker. The menu is full of Southern-inspired dishes and lets you build your own feast, with the ability to pick from multiple snacks, salads and sides. They also offer a vegan main — the grilled cauliflower steak topped with creamy cashew olive remoulade is always a hit.
Eat: The “Daisy Duke” platter which includes Cajun-roasted chicken, 14-hour applewood smoked brisket and St. Louis ribs.
Drink: The Belle peach tea.

Photo courtesy Belle Southern Kitchen and Bar.

THE PALOMINO SMOKEHOUSE
Cowboys, punk rockers and suits on their lunch break are all welcome at The Palomino. Western memorabilia is wedged on the walls next to playbills and the iconic poster of Johnny Cash’s angry finger. The popular live music venue has supported many local and touring artists over the years. Food-wise, they specialize in dry rubbed and smoked Texas-style barbecue and have developed their own special Palomino dry rub. “Our goal is to do the best barbecue, showcase the best live music and have the coldest beer,” says Arlen Smith, one of the operating partners of The Palomino. “That’s what we’ve been aiming for and want to keep hitting.”
Eat: Sliced Alberta beef brisket.
Drink: Good, crisp, light, cheap, American-style lager.

JANE BOND BBQ
Jane Bond BBQ first rolled through Calgary as a food truck before expanding to a barbecue house in 2016 on International Avenue, a cuisine hotspot in the southeast. The space is classy yet comfortable, thanks to black leather, wooden planks and light- up marquee letters that spell out “BBQ.” Jenny Burthwright, owner and chef, says they aim to create an atmosphere where guests feel like they’re in a second home. The menu features some tasty and unique dishes, including croc bites — that’s right, crocodile battered and fried. You can still catch the food truck out and about, and they offer full-service catering too.
Eat: The jerk chicken.
Drink: Tennessee sweet tea.

Photo courtesy Jane Bond.

BOOKERS BBQ + CRAB SHACK
Bookers is all about Southern style, from the smokehouse barbecue, to the music, to the laidback, welcoming atmosphere in a century-old brick warehouse. It’s also about some epic all-you- can-eat sprees — every Sunday from 4 pm, dine on piles of succulent ribs and crab legs until you can’t possibly take another bite. More than 200 pounds of Alberta chicken, turkey, beef and pork are slow-smoked every single day, and if you’re not into barbecue (why are you even reading this!?) there are other Southern favourites like shrimp po’ boys and jambalaya. This is a place to relax, kick back and let the good times roll.
Eat: The BBQ platter featuring pork ribs, brisket, smokehouse turkey breast, pulled pork, baked beans, coleslaw and fries — add crab legs for market price
Drink: The sangria (it’s a secret recipe!)

PADDY’S BARBECUE AND BREWERY
If you want to chow down on Southern-style barbecue with small-batch craft brews never far from your side, this “brewbecue” is the place for you. For years before he opened the joint, owner Paddy Sorrenti worked with smoked meats in the family catering company. Once he started home brewing, it wasn’t long before he envisioned a barbecue brewery. Nestled in Manchester Industrial Park in a cluster of craft breweries pegged the “Barley Belt,” it’s a casual and family friendly spot. “We want people to feel at home and then do everything at their own pace — take time to enjoy the beer and food,” Sorrenti says.
Eat: The in-house pastrami served only on Thursdays.
Drink: A house lager.

BIG SKY BBQ PIT
While Big Sky isn’t exactly in Calgary (it’s about a 30-minute drive south), it’s well worth the trip to this massive, no-frills barbecue emporium with indoor and outdoor seating for hundreds. Don’t go alone — bring your hungriest friends to help you defeat the mountains of Texas- style smoked meat, including brisket, pulled pork, St. Louis ribs and chicken thighs. Add sides such as scratch-made cornbread, smoked beans and scalloped cheddar bacon potatoes, plus a giant candied bacon chocolate chip cookie for dessert. You won’t find any fryers, freezers or grills at Big Sky — everything is authentic and made with 100 percent Alberta-grown meat.
Eat: The Whole Pit is made for eight to 10 people and comes with brisket, pulled pork, chicken, pork ribs, beef ribs, house-made sausage, hog spuds (potatoes wrapped and smoked in bacon, drizzled with honey and sour cream) and a tub of beans.
Drink: One of the 12 different Caesars on the menu.

Photo courtesy Big Sky BBQ Pit.

 

 

Calgary restaurants: 4 new and noteworthy things

By Silvia Pikal

February 15, 2018

Read the latest in our bi-monthly food and drink series, which rounds up eats, drinks and food news!

Elwood and the Rabbit opens in Bridgeland

Photo by What’s Good Photography, courtesy Elwood and the Rabbit.


If the name Elwood and the Rabbit makes you think of an imaginary rabbit named Harvey, you’re not alone. We promise. (more…)