Category Archives: Uncategorized

Perfect Pre-Concert Drink-and-Dine Spot in Downtown Calgary

20170307_183904

Lamb burger and lentil soup at Sandstone Lounge in Calgary’s Hyatt Regency Hotel

It’s a familiar conundrum. You’ve got tickets for a downtown concert or play and want to meet for a drink and a bite before the show. But where to go that’s not too expensive, formal, busy, slow or loud?

Well, in downtown Calgary, my go-to place is the Sandstone Lounge in the Hyatt Regency Hotel, a hop and a skip from the cultural hub Arts Common. It ticks all the boxes of what I’m looking for in a pre-show drink-and-dine spot.

First, it’s casual and comfy. Seating is at small tables, by the fireplace, at the vintage long bar (especially if you’re flying solo) or, in summer, on the outdoor patio amongst historic sandstone buildings along Stephen Avenue Mall.

Second, you don’t have to shout to be heard, with quiet jazz on the sound system. Third, the service is always understatedly professional. On a recent visit, the waitress subtly unwrapped just the soupspoon from the napkin-wrapped utensils.

The critical fourth, Sandstone’s food and drink, is consistently good. There’s a whack of cocktails and wine selections, and it passes my craft-beer test with a nice list of local pints, including a fine, not-to-hoppy White Raven IPA from Edson’s Bench Creek Brewing.

The varied lounge menu ranges from house-spiced nuts to charcuterie to haddock bites. I go for a great lamb burger—featuring all-natural meat from Lambtastic Farms in Vulcan, Alberta—topped with balsamic onion relish, cumin gouda and tomato garlic aioli. This time, my side is a piping hot lentil soup, though the rice-flour-coated fries are darn good, too.

For downtown dinner-time Calgary, it’s reasonable value: $25 for burger/soup and a pint. All in all, an efficient yet relaxed prelude to a fantastic concert, featuring Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and special guest icon Ian Tyson.

Sandstone Lounge: Hyatt Regency Hotel
700 Centre Street SE, Calgary
Daily 10:30 am-midnight
403-717-1234

Lots of Soul in This Bonners Ferry, Idaho Restaurant

img_4439

Tracy delivers the love, and the food, at Soulshine in Bonners Ferry, Idaho

There isn’t a strong tradition of ethnic food in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. So, Tracy Truesdell and Josh Sherven decided to spice things up when they opened Soulshine (“Love and Food”), a little, vibrantly coloured joint in the town’s compact, historic downtown. Sampling their burritos, bowls and wraps is like taking a vicarious trip around the world through your taste buds.

Consider the chile verde, featuring Josh’s tomatillo salsa verde recipe from his days in Mexico. I get this flavourful, pungent sauce ladled over whole pinto beans (cooked in house), rice and guacamole. Africa is represented with a banana chutney, Thailand with a peanut-sauce medley and the Middle East with a Marrakesh salad. They’re even considering adding a Swedish pulled-pork dish as an occasional special.

img_4440

The chile verde has lots of Mexican kick

Tracy and Josh are a lively, friendly couple, happy to share their scratch-made global cuisine or give me a sample of a not-so-international dish—rich, house-made ice cream.

As I leave, I stare up at the sign over the door. “But where’s the love?”

“It’s in the food,” exclaims Tracy. And in the people.

Soulshine
6428 Kootenai Street, Bonners Ferry, Idaho
Weekdays 9 am-3 pm. Closed weekends
208-597-3326

Shocking: A Great Calgary Breakfast With No Lineup

img_1200

Here’s the breakfast lineup at Grumans Delicatessen at 9 am on a Saturday. Photo: Helen Corbett

The other day, I heard local restaurant review legend John Gilchrist, on his weekly CBC Radio Eyeopener segment, mention a two-hour lineup for Saturday breakfast at the new OEB location, in the heart of downtown Calgary. Two hours!

Now, I consider OEB the consistently best, most creative breakfast joint in Calgary. Enough so that I’m willing to wait, say, 15 minutes—while sweating in a winter parka—for a table at its original, Edmonton Trail site. Beyond that, I’m outta there.

The problem is most other good Calgary breakfast places also have lineups, unless I arrive when their doors crack open. Which is never earlier than 7 am and on weekends at the ungodly late hour of 8, when far too many folks are up and about.

You’d have thought Calgary’s recession would have whacked these lineups, especially when a lot of these “diners” are still charging  $16 or more for their upscale breakfast offerings. You’d have thought wrong.

Which is why Grumans Delicatessen is my go-to breakfast spot in Calgary. Even though they don’t open till 8 am on weekdays and 9 am on weekends. Even though you have to pay for downtown street parking after 9 every day but Sunday.

Why do I love it? Because every time I show up for breakfast, there’s never more than a handful of occupied tables. Even though the food is always excellent, innovative, plentiful and, by Calgary standards, affordable.

img_1198

The house-cured lox Benedict, with potato latkes is just $14. Photo: Helen Corbett

The only reason I can figure for this morning vacancy rate is Grumans is a little out of the way, at the unappealing eastern edge of downtown Calgary. Also, perhaps downtown workers don’t want to stop, that close to the office, for breakfast. Grumans is considerably busier at lunch, when office workers show up for the best smoked-meat sandwiches in the city.

But the breakfast fare is equally good, featuring Jewish deli standards like potato latkes, lox Benedicts and that Montreal hybrid, smoked-meat poutine. The best deal is the breakfast special: two eggs, double-smoked bacon, latkes, toast and good coffee, all for a grand total of $9, if you order before 9 am.

img_2490

This early-bird breakfast is $9, including good coffee; maybe the best morning deal in Calgary

With prices and food this good, you should be running down to Grumans. On second thought, maybe not. I don’t want to stand in line.

Grumans Delicatessen
230 11 Avenue SE, Calgary, Alberta
Weekdays 8 am-3:30 pm, weekends 9 am-3:30 pm.

Kickstarting the Day in Ketchum, Idaho

img_4386

Bigwood Bread Bakery adds a full menu to its baked goods in Ketchum, Idaho

I’m always a sucker for a good bakery. Especially if it also serves meals featuring fresh-from-the-oven breads and buns.

So I’m happy to discover not one but two Bigwood Bread Bakery locations in the little resort community of Ketchum, Idaho. Besides baking excellent hand-formed, naturally leavened loaves of, say, sourdough or vitagrain, Bigwood also makes breakfast sandwiches, house-made granola and steel-cut oatmeal with gingersnap walnut crumble.

Of course, I have to try something different—a warm croissant cradling a centre of bacon and gooey cheese. Good stuff.

img_4389

This gooey, cheesy croissant  hits the spot

Bigwood Bread Bakery
380 East Avenue and 271 Northwood Way, both in Ketchum, Idaho
Daily 8 am-3 pm, with 2:30 pm closing at Northwood location.

A good resort town like Ketchum/Sun Valley also has to keep the active folks well caffeinated. At Java on Fourth, they add a few twists to the usual coffee offerings. Like Bowl of Soul, a mix of coffee, hot chocolate and whipped cream. Or the Keith Richards: Mexican hot chocolate and four shots of espresso. That’ll kickstart your morning.

img_4378

Java on Fourth certainly wakes you up with a four-shot espresso

Java on Fourth
191 4 Street West, Ketchum, Idaho
Weekdays 6 am-3 pm, weekends 7 am-3 pm
208-726-2882

Kneading Some Wild Critters With My Ketchum Breakfast

img_4381

All those eyes watching me wolf down my non-meat breakfast

It’s quiet when I enter The Kneadery, in Ketchum, Idaho. Still, I can safely say it’s a bit of a zoo. That’s because I’m greeted by a stuffed, snarling grizzly bear by the front door of this rustic restaurant. It’s merely the start of a menagerie that includes a wall of mounted bison, moose and antelope heads.

With all these critters staring at me glassy eyed, I decide to go meatless at breakfast. It’s a great choice. My half order of French toast is still a plateful of fragrant, organic challah bread (from the nearby Bigwood Bread Bakery), lightly grilled and topped with fresh strawberries and, a lovely touch, warm maple syrup.

img_4382

Strawberry French toast instead

The morning meals at The Kneadery are substantial, as diners around me gamely tackle cage-free eggs Benedict and puffy waffles with gusto.

The Kneadery
260 Leadville Avenue, Ketchum, Idaho
Daily 8 am-2 pm
208-726-9462

Best Bloggers Blogging in 2016!

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

iitca-02

These past few years (2015 and 2014), I’ve wrapped up twelve months of blogging by listing my favourite bloggers who I have subscribed to and read, and whose blogs I believe would be of interest to my readers. Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape) created this nifty badge that any of the bloggers on my list are welcome to add to their own blogs!

This year’s list is going to look a bit like a roundup of the usual suspects, as so many of my favourite bloggers continue to post to their blogs and write so well. A few of those old favourites have stopped blogging, but there are a few new discoveries this year, and one is a former book publishing colleague who is absolutely new to blogging just this week! So I’ll begin my list this year with the newbies-to-me, for variety sake.

Please do…

View original post 352 more words