Category Archives: Cochrane

Java Jamboree Loses its Jolt

 

This bathroom sign says it all about the imminent closure of this great Cochrane, Alberta coffeehouse

This bathroom sign says it all about the imminent closure of this great Cochrane, Alberta coffeehouse

It’s always a sad day when a great place to eat, drink and gather closes.

Such is the case with Java Jamboree, which is shutting its doors at the end of March because of escalating rents in the Cochrane, Alberta mall where it has resided for 13 years.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Java Jamboree has long been my favourite coffeehouse in the Calgary region. The reasons are many.

First, the coffee (from Phil & Sebastian and Bows & Arrows beans) is exactingly produced by well-trained baristas and often presented in little bone-china cups, a lovely touch.

Cappo in a bone-china cup. Who else does that?

Latte in a bone-china cup. Who else does that?

Second, unlike most coffeehouses, there’s good food, much of it made in house. Like my aged cheddar panini on rye, with caramelized onion jam and a little dish of homemade ketchup—all served on a wee cutting board.

You want to eat this, don't you?

You want to eat this, don’t you?

Third, and certainly unlike better known artisan coffee shops in Calgary, the owner, Jess, is invariably there, preparing lunches, doing pour overs and chatting with the regulars.

Owner Jess and one of her expert, personable baristas

Owner Jess and one of her expert, personable baristas

And that’s going to be the greatest loss: a community of disparate souls that regularly gathers for a relaxing java in a wonderful space, lovingly decorated and featuring the work of local artists. Indeed, an artist who regularly makes the journey here from Calgary came up to me to decry the loss of this vital local business.

Maybe the rise in rents is just a business decision. But in a burgeoning town that’s steadily losing its western heritage, and in a mall of mostly indistinguishable tenants, Java Jamboree was an independent light of character and community. And now that light is going out.

Java Jamboree
9, 312 5 Avenue West, Cochrane, Alberta
Monday to Saturday 8 am-6 pm, Sunday 9 am-6 pm
Java Jamboree Coffee Co. on Urbanspoon

But not all is bad news in the Calgary-area coffee scene. I just met some friends at the newish Caffe Artigiano location near Mount Royal University, their first cafe outside downtown. When I wandered into the roomy, glass-walled space at the bottom of a new office building, I noticed nearly a dozen black-clad employees behind the coffee bar.

They were being trained in preparation for next week’s opening of yet another Artigiano location, this one in a brand-new building in the fashionable southwest Britannia neighbourhood (look out Starbucks!).

Training day at Caffe Artigiano location in southwest Calgary

Training day at Caffe Artigiano location in southwest Calgary

So I amble up to the bar and notice three lattes, with lovely foam art, sitting on the counter. “Are you giving away those training shots?”, I ask somewhat innocently. “Sure. Let me give you a hand taking them to your table.”

Now, you know I’m not going to say anything bad about $10 worth of free coffee. But these were indeed flavourful, full-bodied cups, and I’ll certainly be back, happy to pay full price.

Three free lattes. Can't beat that

Three free lattes. Can’t beat that

They get bonus points for the treats—pastries from Manuel Latruwe, scones from Sidewalk Citizen and muffins from another local baker. Sounds like they’re planning on doing some in-house baking in the future.

Caffe Artigiano
110, 5010 Richard Road SW (four other Calgary locations)
Weekdays 7 am-4 pm. Closed weekends
Caffe Artigiano on Urbanspoon

Ethnic Dining in Cochrane, Alberta

Cochrane Ranche Provincial Historic Site pays tribute to the area's ranching history

Cochrane Ranche Provincial Historic Site pays tribute to the area’s ranching history

Cochrane has gone from a history of tending cattle to one of raising families in a commuter community on Calgary’s northwest doorstep. It’s still a steak, pizza and fast-food kind of place, but some good ethnic eateries and coffee shops are adding to the increasingly cosmopolitan mix.

On the infrequent road-trip occasions when I dine at an Indian restaurant, I invariably go for a lamb curry or butter chicken. But  Mehtab East Indian Cuisine has such a long, diverse list of vegetarian dishes—okra or roasted eggplant pulp, anyone?—that I quickly shift gears. I mean, how can I resist this description of Daal Makhani: “Black lentils with kidney beans, simmered on a slow fire overnight and tempered with ginger, garlic and tomatoes, seasoned with butter and fresh cream.” All that slow cooking, with Indian spices, brings out the complexities of this first-rate, not-too-rich meal. I also get a requisite order of garlic naan that is light, flavourful and not swimming in butter. The prices are reasonable for Indian fare of this quality—about $12 for the filling, vegetarian meals and a couple of bucks more for those with meat. Of course, you can always sample a wider range of dishes on the ever-changing lunch buffet, for a bargain $12 or so.

A delectable daal dish and garlic naan at Mehtab East Indian Cuisine

A delectable daal dish and garlic naan at Mehtab East Indian Cuisine

Mehtab East Indian Cuisine
120 5 Avenue West, Cochrane
Lunch buffet Sunday to Friday 11:30 am-4 pm, dinner daily 4:30 pm-9 pm
Mehtab East Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

“This will warm you up,” my server Tim cheerfully says, on a winter’s day, as he starts assembling my chicken donair at hole-in-the-wall Donair on the Run in downtown Cochrane. It will certainly fill me up, I’m thinking, as I watch the “regular-sized” pita being mounded with slow-roasted, shaved chicken breast and my choice of lettuce, olives, tomatoes, pickles, radishes and parsley. Add some typical Middle Eastern sauces—tahini and tzatziki—along with Mama’s pungent, house-made garlic sauce and, after a minute or two in the panini press, I’ve got a substantial lunch for under $7. What really makes this beauty sing is the final topping: crunchy chunks of pungent, pickled turnip. “Here, have a piece of our baklava,” owner Camille Elain says as I skip out the door, ready to tackle the coming deep freeze.

Owner Camille Elain is making great, filling donairs and falafels at Donair on the Run

Owner Camille Elain is making great, filling donairs and falafels at Donair on the Run

Donair on the Run
407 1 Street West, Cochrane
Monday to Saturday 11 am-8 pm, except till 6 pm on Saturday. Closed Sunday
Donair on the Run on Urbanspoon

Great Java in Cochrane, Alberta

Java Jamboree owner Jess Johnston meticulously making a pour-over coffee

Java Jamboree owner Jess Johnston meticulously making a pour-over coffee

Okay, I’ll say it. *Java Jamboree, in the bedroom backwater of Cochrane, is one of the best coffeehouses in Alberta. Take that, snooty Calgary and Edmonton.

The reason is threefold: first-rate coffee, a place you want to linger in—beyond staring at a computer screen—and fine food that’s largely made in house.

Let’s start with the most important thing, the coffee. Young owner Jess Johnston or any of her exacting baristas can make coffee any newfangled way you want: espresso-based, inverted Aeropress, Chemex or pour over. Ironically, the only knock I have on Java Jamboree is its reliance on lightly roasted beans from Calgary’s Phil and Sebastian and Victoria’s Bows & Arrows. I just like a darker roast.

Java Jamboree hits all the right touches, like this gorgeous china cup and saucer

Java Jamboree hits all the right touches, like this gorgeous china cup and saucer

Second, there’s the setting. Sure, Java Jamboree is in a nondescript mall with Safeway and Canadian Tire as neighbours and an acre of parking in between. But step inside the door, and you enter a calming world of beige walls decorated with good art, reclaimed wood tables and brushed aluminum chairs, a comfy couch, soft lighting from hanging fixtures and an unobtrusive jazz soundtrack that promotes actual conversation or book reading.

Isn't this the kind of coffee shop you'd like to hang out in?

Isn’t this the kind of coffee shop you’d like to hang out in?

Finally, there’s the food, a trucked-in or warmed-up afterthought at most cafes. Here, there’s a short but good menu of house-made fruit scones, breakfast wraps, a daily soup and a couple of paninis. The culinary features are four grilled cheese sandwiches, highlighted by an aged cheddar with caramelized onion jam and prosciutto and a side of their own ketchup.

Java Jamboree features four grilled cheese sandwiches, including this one with aged cheddar and prosciutto

Java Jamboree features four grilled cheese sandwiches, including this one with aged cheddar and prosciutto

So, you might prefer a café in Alberta that serves a bean or even food you like better. But I challenge you to find a place that can match these three pillars of a great coffeehouse.

Java Jamboree
#9, 312 5 Avenue West, Cochrane, Alberta
Monday to Saturday 8 am-6 pm, Sunday 9 am-6 pm
Java Jamboree Coffee Co. on Urbanspoon