Author Archives: bcorbett907

About bcorbett907

I'm a Calgary-based writer who enjoys exploring the landscapes, and menus, of western U.S./Canada

The Queen of Empanadas

Empanada Queen (3)

Hot from the oven goodness at Calgary’s Empanada Queen

How do you find overlooked, out-of-the-way dining gems? Sometimes just by paying attention and asking questions.

For instance, I was recently checking out newly opened Outcast Brewing, itself in an incongruous industrial location in southeast Calgary. I noticed, at an adjacent table, a pizza box containing a mess of gorgeously browned baked goods.

“Where did you get those?” I asked, knowing Outcast doesn’t have a kitchen. “At Empanada Queen,” the guy replied. “It’s only about a block away.”

Outcast 14

Empanada Queen is a hole-in-the-wall operation in southeast Calgary

So with a fine pint of Best-ish 2.0 IPA sloshing around my empty stomach, I headed over to the Queen, in a little, equally out-of-the-way industrial location.

I ordered a couple of empanadas—a ground beef/sliced egg and a chicken chimichurri, each a nice-sized snack at only $4.25. It took seven minutes in the oven to reheat one, giving me time to sit at a table and watch a small crew of women filling, folding and crimping these Chilean beauties.

Empanada Queen (2)

Making the empanadas from scratch

They came out hot, flaky and tasty. I was happy once again to trust in serendipity.

Tip: At home, reheat in the oven, not the microwave;the latter toughens the pastry.

Note: You can also find the Queen’s empanadas at nearby Born Colorado Brewing‘s taproom

Empanada Queen

A case full of empanadas to take home

Empanada Queen
4412 Manilla Road SE, Calgary
Monday and Wednesday to Friday 9:30 am-6:30 pm, Tuesday 10 am-6:30 pm, Saturday 10 am-6 pm. Closed Sunday
403-235-0686

At Calgary’s River Cafe, Bacon and Eggs is an Art Form

River Cafe 18

Perfection in bacon and eggs at Calgary’s divine River Cafe

Bacon and eggs. Pretty much every morning eatery serves this, and there’s usually nothing to get excited about, as long as the eggs and bacon are cooked to the customer’s liking.

So when bacon and eggs are elevated to an art form, as they are at sublime River Café in Calgary’s downtown Prince’s Island Park, it’s worth noting, and applauding.

River Cafe 3

A team of chefs at work

Offered only during weekend brunch, their “fresh farm eggs any style” would scarcely merit your attention alongside more alluring options like brioche French toast or smoked salmon and wild rice cakes. But it’s the painstaking attention to quality and detail that makes this dish exceptional.

River Cafe 2

Brioche French toast is another delightful choice

I don’t know if the eggs are organic and free range, but they are perfectly cooked over easy. Overall, perhaps the least notable item on the plate.

You really start to take notice at the bacon: thin slices of house-cured Berkshire maple bacon. Please don’t ruin this by ordering it overly crispy.

Then there’s a pocket of brightly coloured, honey-dressed fingerling potatoes, a massive leap above your typical hash browns. The obligatory toast is yet another step up—wood-grilled sourdough rye.

When each ingredient is this well thought out, and executed by River Café’s small team of chefs, $17 almost seems a bargain for bacon and eggs.

River Cafe 14

River Cafe is in a delightful park setting in Calgary’s downtown core

River Cafe
25 Prince’s Island Park, Calgary
Weekend brunch 10 am-3 pm
Reservations online or at 403-261-7670

Porridge Reimagined at Sidewalk Citizen

Sidewalk Citizen 10

New-age porridge at Calgary’s Sidewalk Citizen Restaurant

If there’s a restaurant breakfast in desperate need of a refresh, it’s good old porridge. The standard recipe, for eons, has been oats, milk and brown sugar. In other words, sugary pablum for the masses.

So, it’s delightful to find porridge reimagined at the splendid new Sidewalk Citizen, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant in Calgary’s Central Memorial Park.

Sidewalk Citizen 12

The main dining area is in a gorgeous solarium

The only traditional ingredient here is oats, though they are organic, steel cut and local. The dominant presence is softened, red fife wheat berries (also organic and local), which add some nice texture compared with your standard gruel. Sliced apples, toasted almonds and a dash of cinnamon fill out the bowl, with a little cup of almond milk on the side.

Sidewalk Citizen 8

The porridge features local, organic grains and oats

This so-called Ashora is a moderate-sized dish ($12), with each complex mouthful to be savoured. Should you want something approaching the normal breakfast plateful, I’d suggest an order of sprouted seed rye bread ($6), an equally revolutionary take on toast—a dense concoction of spelt and rye flour, sprouted rye and red-fife wheat berries, sunflower, pumpkin flax and sesame seeds, dark beer and buttermilk. Add toppings like rose jam ($2.50) or whipped tahini butter ($3), and you have a small, unique meal in itself.

Sidewalk Citizen 6

Other-worldly seed toast

As you can see, it’s mostly an a la carte menu, meaning that when I throw in some brewed Phil & Sebastian coffee, my breakfast tally approaches $25. Still, it’s a unique, flavourful morning meal, served in a spectacular wood-line solarium, the latest, innovative offering from the Sidewalk Citizen team.

Sidewalk Citizen

There’s also seating beside the open kitchen

Sidewalk Citizen Restaurant
340 13 Avenue SW, Calgary
Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday 8 am-10 pm, Friday-Saturday 8 am-11 pm. Closed Monday
403-263-2999

All hopped up for my visit to Cabin Brewing

Cabin Brewing

Cabin Brewing is another fine craft brewery in southeast Calgary’s Barley Belt

I almost need a seatbelt to strap me in for my beer tasting at Cabin Brewing Company, another craft brewery in southeast Calgary. That’s because for my flight of four small brews, the weakest I choose weighs in at 6% alcohol.

Call me a cheap drunk, but I am drawn to beers with lots of character, complexity and depth. That often seems to equate to a higher alcohol content. Whatever.

Put it this way. At the other end of the scale is the fabulous Lost & Won Wee Heavy, a Scotch ale that came in at a knee-staggering 10%. True to the tasting note, it is “rich, complex, malty, with notes of toffee and caramel.”

Cabin Brewing (1)

A flight of full-flavoured beers

My second favourite is the full-bodied, Trappist-style Abbot Belgian Dubbel (7.8%), a collaboration with nearby Banded Peak. Third is the Runaway Double IPA (8%), the only brew where I seem to notice the alcohol content.

In the interests of moderate consumption, I don’t finish what’s in my four little glasses. And I extend my stay with an excellent, hand-sized New Zealand steak pie ($8).

In all, Cabin Brewing is another fine stop in southeast Calgary’s burgeoning Barley Belt.

Location An industrial area, just east of Macleod Trail and across the street from Born Colorado Brewing

 Ambience A nice, log-cabin feel, complete with a hanging canoe

Cabin Brewing (5)

A woodsy cabin ambience

 Food Fine little New Zealand meat pies, warm pretzels and cheese and charcuterie boards

Cabin Brewing (2)

A nice little New Zealand-style meat pie

Favourite beer Lost & Won Wee Heavy Scotch ale

Beer availability Cans and growlers onsite and in cans at area liquor stores.

Cabin Brewing (4)

Here’s what’s on tap

Cabin Brewing Company
505 36 Avenue SE, Calgary
Monday to Thursday 3 pm-9 pm, Friday-Saturday noon-10:30 pm, Sunday noon-6 pm
403-244-3331

Taking the High Line to Craft Beer

High Line Brewing 1

High Line Brewing is a cozy mainstay in Calgary’s Inglewood neighbourhood

At three years old, High Line Brewing is a veritable veteran on Calgary’s craft beer scene. The space is small, with the focus squarely on small-batch beers, brewed behind a glass door, and twists like hopped sours and barrel-aged saisons.

High Line Brewing 2

The muffin tin holder for a flight of beers is a nice design touch

Location Just off busy 9th Avenue in Inglewood’s burgeoning beer district

Ambience The small, intimate space is belied by a high ceiling and a glass garage door that opens onto a little patio

Food Bring your own or order free delivery from nearby Without Papers Pizza

Signature beer Among a plethora of IPAs, the New-England style Talking Hops (7.4%) is a hazy, grapefruity standout

High Line Brewing 6

High Line Brewing
113, 1318 9 Avenue SE, Calgary
Monday to Thursday 4 pm-10 pm, Friday-Saturday noon to midnight, Sunday noon-6 pm
403-827-6985

Outcast in Name Only

Outcast 10

Outcast Brewing is an exciting new entry in Calgary’s craft beer world

In our capitalist world, competition is generally assumed to be a dog-eat-dog affair. You’d think things would be particularly cutthroat in Calgary’s craft beer scene, considering there are more than 50 such breweries vying to get their products in restaurants and bars, on liquor store shelves and down fickle customers’ gullets.

Instead, things are downright socialist, with many breweries collaborating on experimental brews, producing beers in competitors’ tanks and generally being supportive of each other.

Outcast 5

The cloudy Best-ish 2.0 is arguably my favourite IPA of the year

This is especially true of Outcast Brewing, which opened recently in southeast Calgary’s so-called Brewery Belt, home to a dozen small beer makers. Prior to having their own brewery and taproom, owners Patrick and Krysten were contract brewing (i.e. making their beer at other breweries) at places such as Cold Garden. And they’re keen to keep the cooperation going.

“We’re in it together. Everybody promotes everybody. We’re all friends. I’d like to see more collaboration,” says Patrick in this insightful, hour-long podcast.

Of course, all this experimentation and collaboration has led to some interesting, high-quality brews. Outcast’s current lineup includes a wheat beer with a “boatload” of raspberry and blueberry, a breakfast stout, a cider and a pumpkin nitro.

Outcast 6

The current list of Outcast’s diverse offerings

Location In a warehouse area at the south end of southeast Calgary’s brewery-dense “Barley Belt” district

Ambience De rigueur open ductwork with beige walls and comfy cushions

Food Unusual packaged snacks

Outcast 8

Not your typical craft-beer snacks

 Signature beer Best-ish 2.0 An outstanding, hazy IPA: “The most hops we’ve ever put in a beer. Hopped with azacca, citra, simcoe and Idaho 7, this is a flavour explosion.”

Availability Some cans, mostly growlers

Bumper sticker “Arguably the best brewery on Manitou Road SE”

Outcast Brewing
607 Manitou Road SE, Calgary
Sunday to Wednesday 4 pm-9 pm, Thursday, noon to 9 pm, Friday-Saturday noon-10 pm
403-477-5478