Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Up The Ogden Road, Calgary.

After much ado with technical difficulties, the long awaited Day 6...

Destination:  Inglewood, Calgary Central
Book:  Russell Smith’s Young Men
Film:  Gosford Park, Peter’s Friends & other Big House movies.
Daily km:  30
Caffeine, sugar & alcohol units:  4 (not bad, considering)
Foodie #4:  Rouge Restaurant
Foodie #5:  Wilde Grainz Bakery
Foodie #6:  Coco Brooks Pizza

Snow fell in the country this week with 20 cm in some parts.  Like THIS IS ROCK SALT, I have managed to stretch the holidays out and roast the days as needed. Up the Old Ogden Road. Not a British protest song, but a highly efficient means of getting into Inglewood and downtown Calgary. Never mind the highway, the Ogden is the way to go.

Day six was intended as R & R.  After that trek up the side of the mountain, I received a memo from my lungs imploring me to have a bit of down time.  The memo read: a two and a half hour lunch is a perfectly respectable start to the afternoon. The burnout was coming and this was the day to take it easy. Enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with the BBC and the Globe & Mail; I do like finding the newspaper outside the door every morning. It’s been years since we took the G & M on a regular basis.  It’s the Arts section I miss. Tried to fool the coffee pot into thinking it was a kettle and flooded out the counter.  You can only drink so much bad coffee but the bagged tea isn’t any better. Found some kind of growth on the inside of my travel mug and decided to let the experiment continue a while longer. 


Started the day with a trip into Inglewood, a well-groomed suburb of Calgary.  I had selected Rouge which is billed as modern French fine dining. Took a very smooth drive through a quiet residential neighbourhood and secured a parking spot without the usual challenges of driving around the block for an eternity. ROUGE  is a converted Victorian house offering individual dining rooms or a large terrace overlooking the garden.  I think I’ve been very clear on the importance of not rushing a meal.  Rouge understands cocktail hour; I had the best martini of my life.  There was time to savour the drink while perusing the menu and taking in the garden and surrounds. Young Men is a collection of short stories exploring the lives of Torontonians who spend a great deal of time in bars quaffing martinis. In one scene, a character asks why we're all getting excited about what is essentially cold vodka (and perhaps an olive). Wine and other spirits figure prominently. 

What’s your take on vermouth? Is it worth the effort? A spoiler? Do you burn your glass or splash a few drops on the cubes? Are you a gin person?

A little dish of olive oil and house-made vinegar was brought to the table along with a warm, fresh roll that was served with tongues.  Bread rolls are tricky business and most restaurants offer up chewy rolls or dried slices of baguette which are carefully concealed underneath a napkin in the hopes that the linen will help retain some of the freshness.  I let my martini work its magic; was that a double?

First course was horseradish & citrus cured tuna with poke vinaigrette.  I had been on a tartare trend of late and was still striving for the classic beef.  This was very nicely done.  Second course was an enormous piece of elk paillard with fingerling potatoes and carrot. 

I get quite giddy with Big House dinners.  Always enjoy watching those late evening dinners roll effortlessly out (at least as far as the dinner guests are concerned).  Seven is a good course number.  We have a couple of local restaurants that would be ideal for a soup to nuts dinner.  Lord Darlington put on a fine spread and we had the bonus dinner in Gosford Park.  Peter’s Friends showed us a traditional English-heavy on the butter and cream.  And do you remember the Duchess of Duke Street?  The machinery at work for such an enterprise! 

Finished off with a green salad (including lots of nasturtium leaves from the garden) roast apricots, maple & white balsamic and local ricotta from Fairwinds farm; very creamy cheese.  Some restaurants have stopped sourcing locally.  When I spoke with the manager at Buchanan’s he said that they’ve abandoned local farms for their meats as their relationships hadn’t worked out and that their vegetables come from hot houses.  I had not heard great things about Alberta produce and winter was a time of scarcity. We were on carrot and potato here so you cannot go too wrong with that.

And finally, a hot cappuccino.  Like the bread roll, not all restaurants can pull off a hot coffee and it makes all the difference.  Like serving tepid soup, it must be fear of a lawsuit. Always eat your dessert then order coffee.  If it’s a large party, the coffees are lined up like soldiers until the dessert is ready and by the time it’s reached you, the heat is gone. Always wonder if the food ever arrived hot at Big House tables.  It’s a long way from the kitchen and by the time it was plated-all those shallow soup bowls with a single ladle of broth-there can’t have had much heat in it. I was quite comfortable and didn’t want to leave but I had an appointment with the Widget Maker for a little meet & greet and I wanted to stretch my legs first. 

With great reluctance, I made my way to town.  In good company with a deli and fine foods shop at one end and a kitchen supply at the other. I was very restrained in the kitchen store. Found another restaurant that came highly recommended-Jacqueline & Suzanne’s; put it in your back pocket as they do mostly scratch cooking. Across the street is WILDEGRAINZ bakery.  Breads, pastry and delicious shortbread-white chocolate and cranberry-what else? Nice stretch of well-maintained buildings and good reuse of older properties.

After ten years, it was time to scale the Widget Maker fortifications and put a few more faces to names.  Key thing when talking to new people: don't talk about yourself.  Try to pick something on the wall, their desk, their snacks and make that your go-to.  Only problem is when you've done this many times over you it seems like you’re nosy rather than interested.  And there is the question of how much people remember about you in the two minutes you spend with them.  Sometimes, despite being in regular contact throughout the year, if you’re out of sight you go right back to being "Who's this?" on the phone or "To Whom It May Concern" in an email.

We took dinner at Coco Brooks, purveyors of salads and pizza. Chose a delicious Spinach Grande pizza with lots of olives, cheese and red onions.  Coco Brooks has three locations with a slight lean to the religious right as indicated on the menu.  But don’t worry, the religion does not get in the way of the food.  (Unless you believe in divine intervention.) I didn’t know what I was getting myself in for as earlier in the day the restaurant had been described as a “pizza joint in an industrial estate”.  The food rises above its location.

Time to explore the downtown and with about two hours of daylight left, managed a few pictures.  Would recommend the slideshow at this point.  Pictures always lose a little clarity after the upload.  I've seen a lot of dark, fuzzy pictures appearing on blogs of late. Don’t be afraid to put on a light. Started in the West end and came across an independent bookstore, Shelf Life Books.  I was on the prowl for MFK Fisher; they had everything but.  The War Memorial park is a spit away and there were lots of people taking in the evening.  I was given the name of a very good French restaurant for Friday night and wanted to do a little reconnaissance.  We do not want a repeat of Wednesday. I found that I was walking in the opposite direction to what I wanted.  Came across the Lindt store along the route; I may have indulged in a truffle or two.  They carry a better selection than your basic department store which stocks only the red, blue, black and brown bags. And what happened to the Lindt Easter six pack eggs? Couldn’t find any back in the Spring.

Lots of wall art throughout the downtown. 

Pedestrian zones amongst some well-preserved buildings.

On my Foodie list was Manuel Latruwe.  Unfortunately, at the time of writing, they are still piecing themselves back together after the June floods.  I missed the quiches, pastry and house smoked salmon. One other place to mention is The Fine Diner.  Breakfast and lunch with house cured bacon, local eggs and coffee and homemade yogurt. So little time.

Knox United.  Big fan of old style churches; particularly the doors. Modern church design is rather uninteresting. 

Art installations throughout the city. Dollars were up for grabs a few years back through a downtown revitalization project.  Hmm, think I know where that could be used.

I’d taken coffee earlier and thought to write down the intersection.  And just as well; where was the car?  Lots of parking lots and they all looked alike.  I skirted the block twice over and after doubling back found what appeared to be my vehicle. 

Looks like I would be missing the Food Truck Rally on the weekend.  Not surprisingly, there are a lot of beef trucks.

Uneventful drive back to the hotel which made a change.

Settled down and the ghosts of industry past appeared at midnight. And once again, the I-Beam worked its way across the parking lot.

Until next time.  The mountains, afternoon tea and more French food!