25 Best Things to Eat in Calgary 2011
SPICE RUBS AT SILK ROAD
You’ve never smelled — or tasted — fresh spices like the ones Kelci Hind and Colin Leach import at Calgary’s The Silk Road Spice Merchant (pictured above). Don’t miss the incredible combos — beautiful whole spices in Panch Poran to fry for curries, tandoori masala, Turkish Baharat and Hind’s own creative West African Citrus Spice for rubbing on chicken or fish. (2010A 11 St. S.E., 403-261-1955, silkroadspices.ca)
PIE TO DIE
The sister act behind Bliss & Co. Cupcakes and Desserts have perfected the “hand pie” — a little rustic tart that you can eat all by yourself, without a fork (or share if you’re feeling magnanimous). The blueberry is killer. (111, 108 3 Ave. S.W., 403-281-8821 and Chinook Centre, 403-281-8837, blisscupcakes.com)
When is canned tuna not canned tuna? When it’s tuna conserva at Charcut Roast House. The creative chefs start with the best fresh albacore tuna and “conserve” it in little jars with lemony potatoes, topped with pretty, papery slices of preserved citrus, then serve it with beautiful toasted brioche and a skiff of shaved celery and wild arugula salad. (101, 899 Centre St. S.W., 403-984-2180, charcut.com)
Calgary Stampede Horseradish is seriously hot. They say the hottest horseradish is the kind you grate directly from the knobby root and eat immediately, but that’s nothing compared with the stuff they serve at Stampede, and now sell in a jar. Get it at the Calgary Stampede Store, open year-round at Stampede Park, and serve it with your best beef. (calgarystampede.com, 403-261-0355)
Boxwood is the River Café’s latest pretty place to eat, located in the repurposed inner-city Central Memorial Park. It’s tiny, so much of the basic menu is cooked on a little French gas-fired rotisserie unit. The organic chicken from Sunworks Farm comes off the spit crisp and juicy to the bone. Order the roasted potatoes on the side and you’re set. (340 13 Ave. S.W., 403-265-4006, boxwoodcafe.ca)
The sign says deVille Luxury Coffee & Pastries but, according to the menu, it’s the tuna sandwiches that are “life-changing.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s such a stylish tuna melt, with banana peppers, dill pickles and aged cheddar cheese, and when you’re downtown doing the fashionista thing, what better place to grab a quick bite? (Art Central, 200, 100 7 Ave. S.W., 403-452-7777 and Fashion Central, 807 1 St. S.W, 403-263-0884, devillecoffee.ca)
If mac and cheese is your weakness, you’ll definitely get weak in the knees when you taste the lobster mascarpone mac and cheese from CRMR at Home. Not only is this a killer little bit of nostalgia, it’s ready to take home and reheat at a moment’s notice. (330 17 Ave. S.W., 403-532-0241, crmr.com/athome)
ALI BABA KABAB HOUSE'S MAGIC RICE
For late-night noshing needs, look no further than this Afghani kabob house near the 17th Avenue strip. Make sure to order the special qabeli rice, a traditional biryani-style combination of fluffy and elegant long-grain rice, studded with raisins and sweet slivers of roasted carrots. (1602 14 St. S.W., 403-541-1115)
MAD FOR MACARON
The French macaron is all the rage these days, but none are as pretty as those from the yellow house in Mission, Yann Haute Patisserie. Former Fairmont Palliser head pastry chef Yann Blanchard and his wife, Jeraldine, make the most of their French roots with this delicate little filled meringue. My current fave is orange blossom and grand marnier. (329 23 Ave. S.W., 403-244-8091, yannboutique.com)
WHOLE LOTTA PORKA GOIN’ ROUND
At Notable, chef Michael Noble crowns his week of rotisserie cooking with porchetta — an Italian-style pork roast that includes the whole loin, wrapped in its fat back and crispy crackling. Starting with free-range pork from local Spragg Meats, Noble does it on the restaurant’s flaming wood-fired rotisserie, and with the herbs, spices and smoke, it’s possibly the best version of this popular classic you’ll find. (4611 Bowness Rd. N.W., 403-288-4372, notabletherestaurant.ca)
THEY MILK BUFFALO, DON’T THEY?
North America’s only farmstead-made mozzarella di buffala comes from the Old West Ranch near Cardston. You’ll find Debbie and James Meservy’s fresh and creamy white water buffalo mozza on the menu at places like Rouge, Charcut Roast House, River Cafe and Divino, and on the cheese counter at Janice Beaton Fine Cheese. (403-653-2331, oldwestranch.ca)
Calgary’s Curry Queen, Bridget Rathwell, makes homestyle Indian curries and sauces, then puts them in a jar. You can buy her The Curry Queen line at Community Natural Foods and from Indian groceries like Fairmount Spiceland. I particularly enjoy a fast feast of her vegetarian chickpea curry over a big bowl of basmati rice. It’s all organic, too. (1304 10 Ave. S.W., 403-229-2383, communitynaturalfoods.com; 3, 7640 Fairmount Dr. S.E., 403-273-1546 and 202 61 Ave. S.W., 403-541-0606)
LOVIN’ LATIN SNACKIN’
Unimarket specializes in all kinds of Latin foods including Colombian and Salvadoran, from chilies and fresh tortillas, to sweet cubes of guava paste and dulce de leche. But head to the freezers for the arepas de chocolo made by Calgary’s Los Paisas. Their corn griddle cakes made with sweet Andean chocolo corn and fresh cheese and make a delicious, sweet and slightly salty snack. (2405 Edmonton Tr. N.E., 403-984-3373 and 128 50 Ave. S.E., 403-255-4479, unimarket.ca)
If you like big bowls of udon and soba, a stylish and friendly spot is Shikiji Japanese Noodles and Sushi on Centre Street. The menu includes all kinds of Japanese food and great sushi, but go for the noodles — miso ramen, Ten Zaru buckwheat noodles with egg and tempura and, my fave, Shikiji udon with wild sea plants, deep fried shrimp, threads of fried bean curd and tempura croutons, with a perfect quail egg perched on a dab of wasabi on the side. (1608 Centre St. N.E., 403-520-0093, shikiji.ca)
The busy little Una Pizza + Wine is the new go-to spot for great wine by the glass and crispy designer pizza. I’m particularly fond of the roasted fennel sausage with wilted leek, chilies and Asiago. (618 17 Ave. S.W., 403-453-1183, unapizzeria.com)
Winter’s Turkeys are among the best birds produced on the Alberta prairies. I’ve stuffed and basted many others over the years and always come back to this big, fresh, juicy bird. Don’t wait for those holidays to have one. Order online, or check the website for locations that carry Winter’s Turkeys. (403-936-5586, wintersturkeys.ca)
ARRIBA! ARRIBA! ANDALE!
Get your Speedy Gonzales feet moving to Los Chilitos Taco & Tequila House for a plate of tacos, rice and beans, as they should be. This is cheap, fast, cheerful and just plain good Mexican food. The tender chicken Tinga with chipotle sauce and pork carnitas are current faves. Wash it down with a classic margarita. (1309 17 Ave. S.W., 403-228-5528, loschilitos.ca)
TWO IF BY SIDEWALK
Aviv Fried’s ride is the two-wheeled kind. The Sidewalk Citizen baker hops on his bike every Monday and delivers his artisan organic breads to inner-city customers. Sign up on his website and get the $6 delivery of the baker’s chewy Red Fife sourdough loaves. He donates part of his weekly profits to CODE, supporting libraries and literacy for kids in Africa. If you’re too far afield for his deliveries, find his baking at the retailers listed on his website.
OVER THE TOP AT OVEREASY
Who else makes Soul in a Bowl? This decadent, early morning take on poutine combines Overeasy Breakfast’s wicked fried herb potatoes with bacon and gooey cheese curds, and tops them off with a couple of soft poached eggs and lashings of homemade hollandaise sauce — all piled inside a cardboard takeout box. Yes it’s messy. Yes it’s over the top. And yes, it’s worth waking up early for. (824 Edmonton Tr. N.E., 403-278-3447, overeasybreakfast.com)
If a little dairy is OK in your diet, you’re gonna love the Pesto and Gruyere Veggie Burger at Dairy Lane Cafe. This West Hillhurst neighbourhood haunt has morphed from breakfast and lunch into a dinner spot, serving local Wild Rose beer alongside the burgers and shakes, and using local ingredients in specialties like this yummy veggie burger with basil pesto and Sylvan Star Gruyère cheese. As the menu says: “Homegrown & Homemade.” (319 19 St. N.W., 403-283-2497, dairylanecafe.ca)
It’s amazing what you can do with a little cabbage and a lot of salt. Out at The Jungle Farm, Innisfail Growers Leona and Blaine Staples use homegrown cabbages to make naturally fermented sauerkraut. You can buy it from them at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, and it’s perfect on a sandwich, alongside a bratwurst or in an Alsatian choucroute casserole. A little sour, but crunchy and sweet, the way real sauerkraut should be. (5600 11 St. S.E., 403-227-4237, thejunglefarm.com)
Loungeburger takes the trendy meatball to a whole new place in its stuffed meatball appetizer. The yummy lamb meatballs are stuffed with goat cheese, fried until nicely caramelized, then served on a dab of creamy tandoori sauce with a side of fresh and chunky mango aioli chutney. (270 14 Ave S.E., 403-250-2747, loungeburger.com)
AUNTIE BARB’S BISCUITS
Chef Wade Sirois at Forage-Farm to Fork Foods to Go, with his ingredients sourced from the finest Alberta farms, has really got it going on in the pastry department. His saskatoon pie has an amazingly flaky crust, and those buttermilk biscuits (from Auntie Barb’s family recipe) are light, tender and addictive. Take a class — he’ll teach you how. (3508 19 St. S.W., 403-269-6551, foragefoods.com)
FLAT OUT FAVE
At SA Meat Shops, the butchers come from South Africa and, like all South Africans, they love the barbie and their Peri Peri Flattie — a flattened chicken marinated in SA’s own sweet spicy sauce and ready for the grill or oven. It makes an easy and impressive entree with just the right amount of kick. (106, 2120 Kensington Rd. N.W., 403-270-0739, sameatshops.ca)
OH MY GNOCCHI!
Executive chef Andrew Winfield at River Café has perfected the art of gnocchi. He takes local potatoes from Poplar Bluff Farm, bakes them on a bed of salt to remove moisture, then rices, fluffs and carefully cuts in flour and salt to make the lightest pillows of potato pasta you’ve ever tasted. (Prince’s Island Park, 403-261-7670, river-cafe.com)
Calgary’s Best Restaurants 2011: Avenue's 8th Annual Awards
Want more food? Check out our list of winners, runners-up and honourable mentions in our 8th Annual Food Awards.