Without significant commentary or respectable photographs to complete more solo posts on establishments visited earlier this month on a trip to Calgary, I thought I’d quickly sum up a few thoughts on a trio of places to wrap up this busy week…
Breakfast, drinks and an unfortunate lunch…
Sushi Bar Zipang
1010 1 Ave NE
Its unfortunate, but even those places that were once held in good regard – and for sushi in a place like Calgary – for me, it was Zipang out in Bridgeland – times can change. It used to be the best of a mediocre lot. ‘Big fish in a small pond’ for sushi kind of thing. On a recent return to the southern Alberta city, I made my way down to their sushi bar again for a quick early dinner, hoping that I could get an acceptable showing from them as in previous years…
Inside it was pretty packed, busier than I usually remembered it being. I guess word has gotten out that it (was) decent. I did notice that the guys behind the counter were different from the fellows who served me in the past – younger and seemingly less experienced. Families and groups of friends seemed to be the general clientele on this weekday dinner session and there was a good buzz in the room of conversation. However, once some folks departed the lack of any kind of soft toned music playing in the background reduced the place to an almost eerie environment, which could probably use some improvement.
Mavericks Dining Room and Lounge
Calgary Stampede Grounds
Large scale gatherings and events of the commercial variety are usually an impersonal affair. Interacting with strangers, in big crowds amid long hours of making introductions and face-to-face networking result in meals being forgotten about until your stomach growls in protest. Fortunately (or perhaps not) often tied to these shows and meetings are facilities to feed countless individuals on-site, mainly latching onto the captive audience who is seeking out convenience in order to get back to the work at hand. At a recent one, I was faced with this dilemma of being shepherded into the closest and easily accessible mass feeding zone on the Calgary Stampede Grounds. For $21.95, the lunch buffet at Mavericks drew a long lineup through the 11am – 1pm time period, resulting in at least a ten minute wait time just to get to the front of the line and seated.
On this particular day, the all-you-can-eat menu was: soup, salad, AAA carved Alberta roast beef, penne chicken alfredo, barbecue beef ribs, Swedish meatballs, teriyaki chicken, and baked lasagna. After being led to our table and announcing that we were all-in with the buffet, we made our way down to the main floor and got into yet another queue for the feast. Given the huge dining contingent, I would have figured they would have expanded to accommodate at least a pair of routes through the heated-up food pans, but alas it looked like how it is set up on a normal capacity day. I think this helped explain why there was a lineup to just get in, despite the obvious sight of unoccupied tables.
Previous monthly recaps (1, 2).
While there is still general interest in checking out the new hot spots as well as venturing into random finds, it seems lately there is a draw also to those places we’ve been to before that were either eye opening on first glance or generally consistent in subsequent visits that keep bringing us back. Here’s a few more updates on previous foodosophy write ups…
Gnocchi’s Ristorante & Dining Lounge
1238 – 8 St. SW
I was introduced to Gnocchi’s during a business lunch a few years back, and it continues to be a favorite spot to enjoy a glass of wine and some fantastic food while we pretend to work over the lunch hour.
“The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.” George Miller.
As we are usually only here for lunch, we tend to skip appetizers in favor of a bottle of wine – but we decided to splurge today and start with the Italian sausage in a mustard brandy cream sauce. I can’t repeat some of the inappropriate comments made by my colleagues over how amazing this sauce is, but trust me – it truly was fantastic, and there was not a drop left anywhere in sight.
at Hotel Alma, University of Calgary
169 University Gate NW
Hotel dining is always sure to conjure up some strong images. High priced. Extravagant preparation. Fine service. But often for me, hotel dining is a last resort when I’m traveling, as I’ve often come away unsatisfied or feeling ripped off. No matter where I am, I’d prefer to venture out of my hotel without a clear path of where to go to eat and try to sample whatever I can that strikes my fancy by walking the streets. Surprisingly, I’ve never gotten lost on these unplanned wanderings and have always been able to make it back to my accommodations.
However, there is one factor that limits this kind of free style activity… the weather.
Particular when its winter.
And on the prairies.
Without proper clothing or a mode of handy transportation to protect yourself from the harsh elements, it completely derails any sense of food adventuring I might have. Hence, the decision to eat at the hotel.
While stationed for a few days on the campus of the University of Calgary, I was provided with free lodging at Hotel Alma. A relatively new place (open since last October) that functions as both a student residence on the lower floors and a hotel for the public on the upper ones. Very much dormitory-style, the rooms are tiny, though nicely designed with a “Euro” flair and are perfectly suited for the business visitor. Pictured above was the view from my single window. Brrr, chilly cold, I know!
Sadly, yours truly is currently on forced exiled in the wintery tundra of Alberta, specifically the freezing cold city of Calgary where a few minutes of prolonged exposure to the outside elements can result in some unpleasant, numbing sensations on your skin and extremities. Winter in the prairies is not my cup of tea, despite my past of living in these brutal winter conditions for many, many years.
Perhaps taking a cue from the stalled offensive machine of the local National Hockey League club that is mired in a seven game winless streak, the below zero temperatures have seriously stunted my drive to explore the city’s culinary scene, and the changes wrought since I last lived here. But as fate would have it, sitting on the top of a pile of magazines in my hotel room was one that had the bold faced text trumpeting “Calgary’s Best Restaurants”. With a publication date of January/February 2010, it was fortunately not an out of date rag. Exploration in the comfort of my hotel room – perfect!
As I settled in, I began perusing the magazine, beginning with this note from the editor. Again, the mention of a respectable crew of commentators from the city was noted as those being responsible for the rankings inside. Fair enough, “let’s hear it” I thought, and I moved to the pages deeper in the approximately 80-page piece, seeking the wisdom of those “people who know Calgary’s restaurants inside and out”, and read about their choices for the “establishments that they felt would make a lasting impression of Calgary for visitors like (me)”.