It’s no secret that I’ve got a big crush on Alberta. When I was younger, my family would pack up our car and drive out one direction in Canada. Our first of such roadtrips was from Ontario all the way through the Rocky Mountains to Jasper. I remember being amazed at the sight of mountains, especially considering that we had spent what seemed like months staring at the flat terrain offered by Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
I returned to Banff many years later for a training session, again struck by the beauty of the Rockies and how fresh (albeit dry!) the air was, compared to other places I’d been. I also remember being frustrated that I would never be able to capture, on my point-and-shoot film camera, how immense the mountains were. I wanted everyone to know!
So that was Banff. But it wasn’t until I came back on tour with Andrew Huang in 2011 that I fully appreciated what Calgary had to offer. We stayed with a family friend in a suburban neighbourhood looking out onto hills, and not much else. The show we played – at the infamous Tubby Dog – was one of our best, not just because we had had some practice by that point, but because of how enthusiastic the crowd was. We got white-hatted, and I remember being taken aback at how well some of our fans knew the lyrics to “Canadian, Please” when I brought them up to sing with me. Calgarians are so friendly, and Calgary really is the biggest small town.
I’d come back through Alberta a few more times after that – for rafting in Kanaskis, horseback riding in Banff, restaurants on Calgary’s 17th Ave, a cancelled music festival (thanks, X-Fest), and a very long drive from Calgary to Vancouver – but it wasn’t until the last two trips that I took, hosted by Tourism Calgary, that I really understood just how great and forward-thinking Calgary really is, especially when it comes to food. It’s inventive, sustainable, and impressively local.
- Raw Bar, in Hotel Arts, an Asian fusion restaurant and lounge
- recommended: beef short rib steamed buns
- Shiki Menya, a ramen spot with fresh noodles & broth, serving limited bowls every day
- recommended: kara miso garlic (because I love garlic)
- Tool Shed Brewing, no food served here but worth checking out for great craft beer with clever marketing
- recommended: I liked People Skills, but I’m easy & light (!)
- Shokunin, a Japanese-style izakaya that serves ramen after-hours
- recommended: all the yakitori & raw stuff was amazing, great cocktails too
- Phil & Sebastian, for great coffee & tea by the river
- recommended: I’m not a coffee drinker, but the teas were lovely
- Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, for the best pastries & deserts
- recommended: charred avocado spread with fresh sourdough bread, not just a must in Calgary but a must in life.