Tag Archives: Calgary

Day Trips From Calgary a Great Christmas Gift

If you’re looking for a great, locally produced and locally focused Christmas gift, may I humbly suggest my Day Trips From Calgary book, just out in its fourth edition.

Why? It unveils nearly 100 things you can see and do on day trips within a two-hour drive of Calgary. They range from visits to world-class museums (like Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump) to nearby picnics (Big Hill Springs Provincial Park). From native-grass walks (the Whaleback) to scenic drives through prairies, foothills, mountains and badlands.

The Whaleback in southwest Alberta

Did I mention these are day trips, where you can just hop in the car and discover all the great landscapes of southern and central Alberta… and be home in time for dinner?

In other words, no horrors of airports, flying or wondering about the maskless coughing of a seatmate? Or, if you’re driving stateside, about lines at customs and dollars that cost nearly $1.40 Canadian.

Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park in eastern Alberta

Did I also mention it’s expensive to travel internationally these days, whether it’s flights, hotels or car rentals (yikes!). On a day trip from Calgary, your primary cost is gasoline, which has recently come down to under $1.30 per litre.

So why do you need my book? Well, it’s been in print since 1995 and sold more than 60,000 copies, so at least some folks think it’s worth keeping in their glovebox. It’s got a ton of trip ideas and enough detail to provide a rather complete natural and human history of Alberta, from the Crowsnest Pass north to Wetaskiwin, from Dinosaur Provincial Park to Lake Louise.

Historic Flat Iron building in Lacombe

Plus, in this edition, there’s a fairly comprehensive list of good, affordable eats and drinks in cities, towns, hamlets and roving food trucks (You knew there had to be a tie-in to Marathon Mouth). The photos are mostly new and better; thank you iPhone Pro.

Fabulous Homestead Bakeshop in Fort Macleod

It all adds up to nearly 400 door-stopping pages, for a steal-of-a-deal price of about $25.

Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park

Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park in central Alberta

Where can you buy it? Pretty much all the great, local, independent booksellers—Owl’s Nest Books, Pages on Kensington, Shelf Life Books  and even Cafe Books in Canmore—carry it. As do the online giants Amazon and Indigo Chapters.


The Big Taste of Calgary’s River Cafe

Don't you want to just run down to Calgary's River Cafe and dive into this divine tuna dish?

Don’t you want to just run down to Calgary’s River Cafe and dive into this divine tuna dish? (Photos by Helen Corbett)

Really, is there a nicer, cozier place to have lunch on a winter’s day than *River Café, in Calgary’s Prince’s Island Park? The imaginative and immaculately prepared food is usually beyond my road tripper’s budget. But during downtown Calgary’s Big Taste week (on until March 16), I can savour a three-course, scratch-made lunch for the bargain price of $15.

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Marvelous Meatballs at Caffe Mauro in Calgary

Maybe the best meatball sandwich I've eaten, at Caffe Mauro in Calgary

Maybe the best meatball sandwich I’ve eaten, at Caffe Mauro in Calgary

$13 for a sandwich? That’s why Caffé Mauro, across the street from downtown’s Mountain Equipment Co-op, didn’t make my list of top places to eat in Calgary for under $10. The sandwiches themselves were, and are, superb, reflecting owner and cook Sal Malvaso’s long-time commitment to first-rate ingredients and made-to-order freshness. You can watch him assemble a short list of sandwiches including a beef brisket Reuben and the top-selling prosciutto and bocconcini, piled high on a  baguette.

Two things changed my mind. First, my sister sends me this email: “Seriously, this meatball sandwich is maybe the best lunch in town. Soft, peppery meatballs, sautéed mushrooms, in the softest baguette. YUM!”

Second was the math. When I took home an outstanding meatball sandwich and plopped it on the scale, it topped 1.3 pounds. Unless I wanted to gorge myself, it was plenty for two lunches. So $13 divided by two equals $6.50, which turns into a high-quality bargain.

Caffé Mauro makes a slightly smaller version of said sandwich for $10. Either way, add it to my list of great Calgary cheap eats.

Caffé Mauro
999 8 Street S.W., Calgary
Weekdays 7:30 am-4 pm. Closed weekends
Caffe Mauro on Urbanspoon

I’m Into Peruvian Food at Inti Restaurant in Calgary

It's a Peruvian family experience (Nicole, left, and Consuelo, right) at Calgary's Inti Restaurant

It’s a terrific Peruvian family experience (Nicole, left, and Consuelo, right) at Calgary’s Inti Restaurant

When I hit a lunch buffet, I’m squarely focused on three things: quality,  volume and price. Service? Just point me towards the groaning tables of steamer trays. But *Inti Restaurant, a fairly new Peruvian restaurant in a northeast Calgary strip mall, nails all aspects of a great buffet dining experience, for only $16.

First and foremost, there’s the excellent and rather exotic Peruvian cuisine. It starts with what, for me, is the meal’s highlight, a spicy chicken soup with peas, which I accompany with a tangy squid and shrimp ceviche. Of course, this is followed by two platefuls of pork stew with potatoes and peanuts, rotisserie chicken, savoury kidney beans and fried yucca. Surprisingly, there’s also a tray of ginger beef, a nod to a post-World War 2 influx of Chinese immigrants to Peru; who knew?

A fabulous spicy chicken soup

A fabulous spicy chicken soup

Purple corn makes an appearance in a house-made fruit drink, chicha morada, and a fruit dessert. Apparently, purple corn is good for high blood pressure. Need more dessert? A friend sings the praises of the coconut rice pudding, but I’m too stuffed to join in.

The usual overflowing buffet plate

The usual overflowing buffet plate

Good as the food is, it may be topped by the interaction with our lovely host, Consuelo. Her son, Hans Puccinelli, officially owns the family-run place, but he’s ensconced in the kitchen. That leaves Consuelo to come by with clean plates, menu explanations and suggestions. By the time we leave, we’ve heard about the family’s migration from Peru to Canada, and Consuelo is imploring us to come for a future pisco sour tasting.

Note: Inti is a favourite hangout for star chefs John Jackson and Connie DeSousa, when they’re not busy running their Charcut Roast House.

Inti Restaurant
208, 3132 26 Street NE, Calgary
Lunch Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 am- 2 pm, Sunday noon-2 pm, dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5 pm-9 pm. Closed Monday
Inti Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Healthy, scrumptious eating at Calgary’s Community Natural Foods

Lots of healthy, tasty choices at Community Cafe in Community Natural Foods

Lots of healthy, tasty choices at Community Cafe in Community Natural Foods

Hey, I’m hitting the road for a trip down the U.S. west coast (you know, Washington, Oregon, California), and the beast must be fed. If you have any good eatery/drinkery suggestions of places I “must” hit, please let me know. In the meantime, one last healthy Calgary meal.

I don’t know why, but I hadn’t eaten at Community Natural Foods in a number of years. Maybe it was the oh-so-serious vibe I was getting, at Calgary’s flagship health food outlet, about what people were putting in their bodies. But when I glanced into the store’s busy Community Café the other day, there were lots of relaxed-looking, regular folks (okay, there was one guy with dreadlocks) filling their lunch plates from the cafeteria-style stations. Better yet, there was a diverse selection of fresh, healthy food at reasonable prices. It all passed my eye test, to the point where I couldn’t decide between a $3 small slice of pizza, an $8 meat sandwich (yes, MEAT), wild rice cabbage rolls or one of the best salad bars you’ll find in the city. Both the hot dishes and salads are $2.49 per 100 grams, so there’s some incentive to not overeat, which is kind of the point, I guess, at a health food emporium.

I settled on a hearty chicken burrito ($8), which server Evan loaded with brown rice, mozza, spring mix lettuce, avocado, salsa, hot sauce and anything else my heart desired. It was a fine medley of flavourful food rolled tightly enough inside a large whole-wheat tortilla to permit only minor seepage down my wrists. My only criticism was the single cashier, causing a slight delay that could cool one’s food off during lunch rush hour. The only other problem was all the other dishes I could have eaten, like the pumpkin lasagna. Guess I’ll have to start making up for lost time.

It's by no means all vegetarian at Community Cafe, witness this hearty chicken burrito

It’s by no means all vegetarian at Community Cafe, witness this hearty chicken burrito. The fact it’s not swimming in cheese and sauce may make it less photogenic, but my heart appreciates the restraint

The Community Cafe at Community Natural Foods
1304 10 Avenue SW, Calgary
Weekdays 9 am-7 pm, Saturday 9 am-5 pm, Sunday 10 am-4 pm

Bite-Sized Posts: Canadian BBQ

It's rodeo time at the Calgary Stampede

It’s rodeo time at the Calgary Stampede

In honour of the 101st Calgary Stampede and those who moved mountains to put it on two weeks after the record floods. Where’s the beef? At the end of a shovel.

Southerners can get mighty particular about barbecue—about smoke rings, chopped or sliced, etc. Me, I don’t know much, but I do lean toward flavour, moistness and an absence of syrupy sauces. So, Calgary’s Holy Smoke BBQ hits pretty much all my bases. Its barbecue has a nice, smoky flavour and ain’t dry, with a dozen sauces in bottles, so I can add what heat and sweetness I want. It also hits my price point, $6 for a generous, regular chopped beef brisket, stacked inside a typical hamburger bun; better bread would kick things up a notch. Add buck-a-bone ribs for more protein or sides like coleslaw or a tiny piece of cornbread, and you still haven’t cracked $10. I avoid the lunchtime rush, so my car-to-car time, including eating, is an impressive five minutes, and I’ve got the vacuum turned off.

Chopped brisket sandwich for $6 hits the spot

Chopped brisket sandwich for $6 hits the spot

The flagship Holy Smoke is located in an industrial part of southeast Calgary, with outdoor picnic tables for summertime dining and indoor seating surrounded by bumper stickers. To wit: “If you’ve been married three times and still have the same in-laws, you might be a redneck” and “Dress code: four tooth minimum.”

Authentic BBQ at 51 degrees latitude? I’ll let the purists debate that. But for quick, affordable beef on a bun, it goes down fine with a little rodeo.

Holy Smoke BBQ
4, 4640 Manhattan Road SE (two other Calgary locations)
Weekdays 10 am-8 pm, Saturday 10 am-4 pm. Closed Sunday
Holy Smoke BBQ on Urbanspoon