Meet you at the Bridge

Calgary distillery Bridgeland founders
Daniel Plenzik (l) ad Jacques Tremblay
toast their new distillery. Photo by Camie Leard

As Calgary and area’s distilling scene continues to grow, the new Bridgeland Distillery in…well…Bridgeland,  is concocting something a little different. While most distillers are perfecting their gins, vodkas and introducing some whiskeys, Jacques Tremblay and Daniel Plenzik have something else in mind. “You have to do what you’re passionate about,” says Tremblay. “Or you won’t put your heart into it.” And these two are passionate about grappa and brandy as well as whiskey. We love the connection between the grappa, limoncello and Bridgeland’s deeply-rooted Italian community. The cocktail menu, designed by mixologist London Richard, brings out the best of these beautiful spirits. We invite you to try the Badabing featuring Bridgeland Brandy Blanc.

Photo: Daniel Plenzik (l) ad Jacques Tremblay toast their new distillery. Photo by Camie Leard

Bottoms-up in Banff

Banff Park Distillery exploratory whisky project rye whisky river background
Photo courtesy of Park Distillery

Speaking of distillers, there’s some pretty cool stuff happening at Park Distillery in Banff as master distiller Matthew Hendricks (Hendo to his friends) released the Exploratory Whiskey Project: a limited-edition collection of experiments in technique, mash bills, barrel characteristics and flavour profiles, trying to find the perfect whisky that will one day become Park’s signature rye. “I love this project, it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done,” says Hendriks. We were lucky enough to sample one of only 65 bottles released in September and we have to say…we’re excited about it too, Hendo!

Sky-high Snacks

Banff Calgary restaurant Cliffhouse Bistro charcuterie preztels kettle chips olives
Photo by Camie Leard

While we’re in Banff, we must send a shout out to Cliff House Bistro whose delightful chairlift ride up the hill at Nakiska ($35/ticket) makes for a great date for those who’d rather munch than mountain climb. As a modern take on the traditional mountain tea house, Cliff House uses none other than Park spirits in sweet, colourful and oh-so-Instagrammable tea-infused cocktails. Enjoy the delicious soft, hot pretzel with two cheese dips for a snack while you take in the spectacular view of Mount Rundle, Banff and the Fairholme range. Or, dive into something more substantial with one of the delicious panini’s or bao buns. We had the Turkey Reuben’s panini and it was excellent. The kettle chips are addictive, though, so beware.

Bearspaw Beckons

Calgary Bearspaw restaurant Flores & Pine pork tomahawk carrots eating
Photo by Carmen Cheng

Heading back to Calgary, the new Flores & Pine in Bearspaw is absolutely worth a stop. In fact, it’s more than worth a special trip. The significantly renovated space that was once the Bear’s Den is now bright, airy and modern with large windows and soaring ceilings that allow for multiple indoor “trees” that really bring the outside in. With a lounge, grill room, atrium, estate room and gorgeous sheltered patio, this space is fresh, new and flexible. But let’s face it, we’re here for the food. And it’s exceptional. Chef Rory McGouran, a gifted Toronto import, uses the gorgeous wood-fired rotisserie and grill to bring a hint of smoke to cuts of beef, pork, lamb and chicken that have all been sous vided for tenderness and flavour. We loved the pork tomahawk which is also brined for two days before it hits the sous vide bath. Don’t miss the copetta on the dessert menu. To be honest, we’d drive to Bearspaw just for that and a sip of the Taylor Fladgate 40-year Tawny port.

Deep Dive

Calgary restaurant sea bass cornflake crusted fried, king crab, corn & bacon hash, bearnaise
Photo by Camie Leard

Stephen Deere is at it again as he brings the local, sustainable and delicious philosophy of Modern Steak to his new project, Modern Ocean. Replacing Bar Modern on the main floor of the space at 100 8th Ave. S.W.  Modern Ocean is a deep dive into sustainable seafood using line-caught, trap-caught or sustainably farmed products from Canada. We had the seabass from Deep Water Farms, which grows leafy greens and raises the fish in a closed-loop vertical farm. Crusted in cornflakes and topped with a rich bearnaise and king crab it was a delight. Stop in for the Sunday Seafood Boil for two with all the fixings for just $99.

Back to Basics

Calgary French restaurant Melo Duncan Ly Savour Calgary Editor Camie Leard
Chef Duncan Ly and Savour Calgary Editor Camie Leard at Mélo
Photo by Ellen Parker

Chef Duncan Ly’s latest outing gets back to basics as he translates his love of traditional French cooking into a chic downtown eatery with a carefully designed opening menu. Just up the block from Ly’s Foreign Concept on 11th Avenue S.W. Mélo is the realization of Ly’s longtime dream to return to his roots in French cuisine. With a focus on the French tradition of eating what’s fresh, local and in season, Mélo combines traditional and modern techniques to offer a special experience (and a great wine list)! We very much enjoyed the beef tartare, a salty chicken-liver paté on sweet jam and waffle wedges as a starter. A perfectly-done steelhead trout was accompanied by beautiful potato croquettes, a delightful maple-roasted Brussels sprout and garlicky mushroom sides -family style. We’ll be back to try out the dessert menu!

Delicious Drive

Canmore Calgary restaurant Mt. Engadine Lodge brunch eggs benedict prosciutto smoked salmon
Beautiful bennies at Mt. Engadine Lodge, Photo by Camie Leard

Do yourself a favour and take a delicious drive through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park for a meal at the secluded, rustic and gorgeous Mt. Engadine Lodge. Located off Highway 40, this quaint little lodge boasts some spectacular views and an even more beautiful brunch. My reservation only, Sunday brunch at Mt. Engadine is a no-menu adventure offering featured eggs Benedict (we had a prosciutto and a smoked salmon), breakfast favourites like bacon, sausage and hashbrowns as well as delicious whole wheat cinnamon pancakes served with peaches. Brunch not your bag? Stop in after a cross-country ski at nearby Mt. Shark for daily afternoon charcuterie and tea 2-5 p.m. and indulge in the The Mount Engadine Mountain Caesar, a delicious backcountry creation, made with Park Distillery’s chili-infused vodka to warm you up this winter.

Hidden Gem: Cornerstone Music Café

Calgary cafe restaurant Cornerstone Music Cafe butter chicken rice
Cornerstone’s practically-famous butter chicken topped with fresh greens.
Photo by Camie Leard.

If you’re not a resident of Deer Run, Cornerstone Music Café is easy to miss in its unassuming strip-mall location at 14919 Deer Ridge Dr SE. But what’s inside is most definitely worth stopping in. Owners Sylvia and Jim Johnston marry music and food in a most delicious way as the café and music school give parents a top-notch nosh while waiting for little ones to complete their lessons. Head down on a Saturday for live music by local artists and enjoy Sylvia’s exceptional soups, stews and curries – many of them gluten-free.

Cornerstone’s practically-famous butter chicken topped with fresh greens. Photo by Camie Leard.

Comfort Food at its Finest

Calgary restaurant Frank's split pea soup ham bread meatballs
Frank’s split pea soup and wagyu beef balls.
Photo by Camie Leard

You can always count on the quartet of restaurant spaces at 6920 Macleod Trail S anchored by the iconic Smugglers Inn for a great meal. Between the tradition of late-night fine dining at Smugglers, the fresh DYI approach at Open Sesame and the gorgeous Brazilian BBQ of Bolero there’s something for everyone. Now, add Frank’s on Macleod (named for owner Frank Krowicki) which now fills the former Tango space, and lunch just got a whole lot homier. Just like the beautiful dining-room fireplace, Frank’s menu is all about comfort.  From split pea soup to pot roast pie, the menu starts with nostalgic favourites and moves through three types of meatballs, the millennial staple toasts, sandwiches, bowls and more. We had the hearty, salty, savoury split pea soup and the wagyu beef balls. Both warm, filling and perfect for an early winter lunch. For dessert, a cinnamon-bun sundae that somehow managed crispy, chewy, gooey, crunchy and sweet all in one.