Eat Local: National

Hello Friends!

Welcome to a slightly adjusted theme to this blog, that I love. I still believe in and love and eat healthy whole food. I cook this way in my regular life and I want my kids growing up knowing that carrots taste great with a little dirt on them and raspberries in season are better than any processed anything they will ever eat. However, I’m working a few contracts downtown right now and realistically I’m spending a lot more time booking dinner reservations and mixing drinks. Time to embrace it on the blog. So perhaps some recipes will be happily interspersed, but for now, you get Calgary foodie reviews, where to go, what to eat etc. It’s gonna be fun.

Which brings me to this week’s adventurous night out…For those of you who know Calgary, you may remember about 10 years ago when 17th Ave was the. place. to. be. It kind of disappeared for a while but in the last few years some incredible places have opened up: Una Pizza and Wine, Ox & Angela, Chilitos Taco House, Cibo, 80th & Ivy, just to name a few. We went, this week, to National, which has been open for a few months. I’ve been a couple of times with “the girls”, but Sexy Husband and I thought we would check it out and actually eat something.
National is set up like a German Beer House, with long communal picnic tables, a huge patio, and a stock exchange style screen of the 100+ beers you can try. As people order a beer, it moves up on the screen in popularity. So fun. We met some friends and shared about 100 oysters (by we I do not mean me, because of an inconvenient shellfish allergy). Then we had a green salad, which was served in a mixing bowl large enough to feed the table. It had some great and surprising tastes including toasted walnuts and thinly shaved fennel with a really light buttermilk dressing. Delish. Then we got some deep fried pickles. Why oh why do I have to love deep fried pickles so much. And we topped things off with their classic poutine. It was a) an enormous portion, perfect for sharing, and b) the best chicken gravy I’ve ever tasted. Loved it. Other people ordered burgers and fish tacos, all which looked delicious. We finished the night with deep friend mars bars. They were yummy but pretty tiny and I’ve made better ones at home.

All in all I was really impressed with the food. The environment is great too and the patio is huge. Our server was great and always showed up at the right time. The music was so loud that it made it hard to talk, but I’m adding National to my regular stops!

Local Fare: Aria’s Save The Lemurs Bake Sale

There are lots of proud moments as a parent. Some of them are skill based, those moments when you realize your kid is the only one who scored a goal in the soccer game, or when you hear your 5 year old sing harmony for the first time. Those are great moments, call the grandparents moments, point your child in that direction moments. Then there are proud moments for character based reasons. These really are the deeply and truly satisfying ones. Like maybe you’ve done something right with your little people. Maybe they get it. Maybe they understand that they are here to contribute to the world and make it better, more than they take from it and hurt each other.

I had such a moment last week. Picky Princess, who just turned 6, learned(via organics kids cereal box) that deforestation is causing lemurs in Madagascar to lose their homes. 22 of the 70 species of lemurs are endangered because of it. She was (rightly) horrified. And determined that she MUST do something to save the lemurs. I told her I would help her in any way and to let me know how she thought we could save them. I even offered suggestions: lemonade stand, benefit concert…But nope, she had already decided, BAKE SALE.

So thanks to social media, and our generous friends at Cornerstone Music Cafe who hosted us, we had to bake about 5 trillion cupcakes this past weekend. Ok it was 600. It was a wonderful day. Picky Princess gave her monologue, over and over, about how we need to save the lemurs. We baked and sold and baked and sold. Thank you to my beautiful friends who supported my beautiful activist child. Between all day friends and family who stopped by with coffee or to lick icing bowls, to late night friends who stopped by to drink wine with me when I was still baking at midnight…it definitely reminded me that…it takes a Village.

All in all, $300 or so was raised to save the lemurs. We will be sending a cheque to the Lemur Conservation Foundation. And I probably won’t bake cupcakes for a while.

Local Fare: Bake Sale!

Hello Friends!

Long time no chat. So much to catch you up on! First of all, I have fig&fennel cookbooks in again finally. They look awesome! If you would like one, email me at alison.leontaridis@gmail.com and I will send you one. They are $30 and you can pay me by paypal or email transfer. There are a few retail outlets in Calgary that will have them as well…Should have a list to you by the end of the week!

In other exciting news…Calgary Food Bloggers are joining forces to put on a bake sale this weekend!!! All proceeds will go to the Brown Bagging project with the Calgary Kids Society. There are going to be amazing, delicious treats, and it’s going to be a lot of fun, SO, you should come and visit me there this weekend! Feb 11 and 12, 10am-5:30pm at Casel Marche at 17th Ave SW and 24th St. I will be there Saturday, Feb 11 from 10-12. I will actually have cookbooks available too if you want to pick one up from me there.

On a personal note: I survived January with nary a scar. It was the most beautiful January ever. Lots on the go: Picky Princess is loving Kindergarten, I have changed Foodie Baby’s name to Baby Light because she lives on about 10 calories a day and no longer loves food. Sexy Husband and I are working on some exciting things including The 1Night Benefit Concert, that we produce every year to raise money for a local charity. This year we are hoping to raise $50,000 for the Calgary Dream Centre. You should come, it’s going to be a great concert. Check it out here!

Hope to see you Saturday!

Local Fare: Cruffs

Birthday Boy

Sexy Husband is 34 today!!! Happy Birthday Love! The world is celebrating him by snowing. Again. Not what he deserves for being one of those people who lives to serve others, do anything to make his family happy, and enjoy the simple things in life. He really is the best person I know.

Every year I ask him what kind of cake he wants. I’m hoping he’ll say something like 6 layer hazelnut ganache torte or baked alaska. But no, it’s always something like, Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake, or Strawberry Shortcake. I want to put monstrous amounts of effort in to show my love, he wants me to spend 2 minutes buying it, instead of 2 days baking it. Of course this is why I love him. This year he requested cream puffs. A tower of cream puffs to be exact. So I purchased enough cream puffs to feed the SW corner of Calgary. But then this morning we were downtown and noticed Cruffs, a Cream Puff Store!! Perfect! So I stopped in and now…you MUST! Click on the link to see their website.

Cruffs is owned by 2 brothers from Indonesia. The couple who were working were passionate about their cream puffs, taking great care to tell me how to store them until tonight. They were also seriously about the nicest people I’ve talked to in days. I left wanting to be their friend. This is how it works. You choose mini or regular sized cream puffs. The minis are about 3 times of the size of minis you get in a tub from Superstore. The large ones about the size of a donut. Then you pick your fill, and he injects the filling straight into the cream puff, so it’s completely fresh!!! Fillings included: hazelnut chocolate, coconut, lemon, strawberry, vanilla, and chantilly cream. How amazing is that? They cost exactly half the price of fancy cupcakes and I love the idea of getting exactly the kinds you want!

yum yum

Tonight we will celebrate with a tower of cream puffs, particularly coconut, lemon and hazelnut ones. Tomorrow is Foodie Baby’s 2nd birthday(can you BELIEVE I have 2 important people to cook for and celebrate within 48 hrs? Tricky). So the afternoon is being spent baking all things mini: mini cookies, mini scones, mini cupcakes, all for her little Button mini brunch table tomorrow. Pics to come I’m sure. Forgive my few day foray away from normal, healthy, easy meals!

My little Button

Local Fare: Boston

mmm pinkberry happy face

As expected, Boston is AMAZING! Seriously it is maybe the most beautiful city I’ve been to. The people were incredibly friendly, which could be because half the world was there for the marathon. The architecture blew my mind. ¬†Everyone was enthusiastic, customer service was over the top great, and the whole city was alive with marathon pride! We had a great time. We also ate a lot of great food! Foodie highlights include: post race fish and chips at Tommy Doyle’s Irish Pub in Harvard Square, lychee fro-yo from Pinkberry(ok let’s be honest, pomegranate, coconut and mango were equally great!), veggie pizza from Uno, giant cookies from Quincy’s Market, breakfast sandwiches from Au Bon Pain, and cappuccino from some hole in the wall in the Italian North End district. We ate well. We also walked 12 hours a day to justify eating so well! IronSister rocked her 21st marathon(5.5 months pregnant I may now happily announce!)

In other MAJOR news(at least in my life), the Calgary Farmer’s Market reopened today!!! I took the girls to check it out. It was utter pandemonium, first day craziness of parking schmazzles etc, but I’m so so thrilled to have the Market open. It is beautiful and spacious, all sorts of new stuff. Traditional cap from Fratello was worth the parking lot endurance sport. I can’t wait to go back and get my routine on. I’m home, it feels like spring, so I intend on being back in the action this week. Hopefully I’ll have some new recipes for you!

local fare: Catch Oyster Bar

Sexy Husband and I got out last night. Date night. Like most people we know with little kids, we live waaaaay out in Calgary suburbs. Which is great. Friendly neighbors, parks on every block, preschool just down the street. But in our hearts, we both love the city. We love downtown. And living in the suburbs does not stop us from embracing as much downtown as we can. We go downtown for coffee a few times a week and try to get out for dinner or drinks once a week or so two. While our friends buy patio furniture and flat screen wall size tvs(which don’t get me wrong, thank God they do or where would we all break bread and watch movies together?), we fill our gas tank and pay the babysitter. We just love the energy of downtown, and the mix of people and food and culture.

Anyway, last night we went to Catch Oyster Bar. We’ve been once before, but late at night and only for dessert. One of my most fabulous friends is Catch’s very own pearl, so we went on a night she was serving and she brought out the red carpet. Not only did I sample a number of spectacular and unique wines, she had the chef prepare me an off-the-menu shellfish-free menu to accommodate my annoying allergy. I had a play on fish and chips, with spectacular alaskan cod, that literally melted away. Sexy Husband had moules et frites. Let’s be honest, he had moules, I had frites. I think he was a bit teary when the provencal sauce was gone. For dessert we had Catch’s sampler, a mini version of: okanagan pear crumble, frozen chocolate cherry ganache, dulce de leche cheesecake, vanilla bean creme caramel, and sticky toffee pudding. It honestly was all incredible.

alaskan cod

dessert sampler

Catch was recently rated Calgary’s number 1 restaurant, and I can completely see why. Not only is the food and wine spectacular, the service was exceptional, and the chef AND sommelier came by to chit chat. If you are in Calgary, you must check out Catch!

Thanks JR for such a great date night! xo

me with Catch's finest

Local Fare: Organics Delivered

Best of Season Box

Something very exciting happened to us this week. The door bell rang and a friendly man delivered a big box of organic produce. Isn’t that great!? A dear friend of mine gave me two weeks of produce deliveries as a thank you for watching her son. I’ve been saving them for this month when the beloved Farmers Market is closed. They are called “Best of the Season” boxes, so you never know quite what you’re going to get. This week mine had a bunch of romaine lettuce, a bunch of spinach, a bunch of collards, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams(yes those are two different things!), bananas, mangoes, oranges, apples, grapefruits and a cucumber. All organic and all in perfect condition!

It was out of my normal cooking style to have to cook something based on what I have, not what I’ve chosen, but so far this week it’s worked out great! I don’t think I would use a service like this full time because a)I LOVE to grocery shop myself, I need it for the inspiration, and b) I usually have a specific idea of what I want in mind. I do know that this company in particular does provide you with the option to order specific things, and I know there are other grocery delivery options out there! But I will definitely use them for times like this, when my cooking mojo is diminished and the fun of opening a big box of surprises is motivating!

If you would like to check it out, you can find Organics Delivered HERE.

Local Fare: Purple Perk

Purple Perk

Sexy Husband and I were musing the other, that this is the first December in many many years, that he has not been on tour. Usually I can count on one hand how many days he is home in December. But this year, with the Studio in full force, he turned down gigs, for home. How wonderful! Yet even though he is home waaay more this month than usual, for some reason, it still just feels like life is SO busy and we have to be extremely productive for all 18hours of the day we are awake, to keep on top of things. Not good. Our conclusion is that time is like money, in that if you make more money, you always find a way to spend more money and feel like there’s not enough of it. If you have more time, very rarely do we manage it so well as to include enough time for reflection and pause.

And reflection and pause is so important. We need to stop, and breathe, and dream, and remind ourselves why we do it all, and who we are. And so we did that this week, 2 perfect hours of peace and pause. We confided in each other, dreamed some of the same dreams that always come up over coffee and breakfast, encouraged each other and enjoyed each other’s company.

This is all much easier to do when you have a special place that you love, that provides an atmosphere for just this dreaming and being. For us, this place is Purple Perk, downtown Calgary. There are many great coffee shops in Calgary, and lots of great places to eat. But there is something about Purple Perk that is special to us. It’s where we take our nearest and dearest. It’s where we escape to. Sexy Husband and I have our routine down to a fine art. It’s always full except our one table, waiting for us. We order the exact same thing(he gets this but I eat that of his, I get that but he eats this of mine). The food is delicious, the raspberry scones are like no other, the staff are amazing and know my girls by name. The coffee is absolutely delicious. I don’t know anything about it, which is unlike me, and for whatever reason, I don’t give two figs what sub-region of which sub-equatorial country the beans are from. I just know I love it.

The atmosphere is fun too. There’s always the usual crowd: one table of hipsters with their oversized headphones and Mac’s, one table of suits from the downtown corporate scene, one table of seniors – regulars, business meetings beside lululemon mommies. A little something for everyone!

If you are in Calgary, go check out this happy little place, the heart of Mission on 4th St.

It’s time my friends. Time for pause, breath and reflection.

check out the $8.95 cup of coffee

world's best raspberry white chocolate scones

Local Fare: Silk Road Spice pt 2

Colin and Kelcey

You remember my Farmers Market BFF’s? Colin and Kelcey from Silk Road Spice Merchants? Well here’s an adorable pic of them from their big Grand Opening this week! They put on such a classy event, red carpet and all! They prepared some AMAZING food, featuring some of their many many many spices. Check out their blog for some great recipes. Sexy Husband and I went, had a lovely visit, great prosecco, delicious food. I literally teared up when I realized that I didn’t have a pic to post of Kelcey’s shoes. They were that gorgeous. sniff sniff.

Just a reminder you can check them out at the Calgary Farmers Market until Dec 23. Then you have to stop by the store in Ramsay, until they reopen the market in Feb. Do it. Preferably on a Friday or Saturday when there are scones. Also, stay tuned for a guest blog post by Colin!

I don’t go a meal without using their spices. Last Night: chili with smoked paprika and 4 color peppercorns, spiced pear cake with Saigon Cinnamon.

some of the delicious food

Local Fare: Caffe Crema

Caffe Crema

It is a highly valued treasure in my life when I can walk into a coffee shop and am greeted by name and I don’t have to order my drink, it’s just made and made well (2 shot americano in a short cup. We like to call it a Baby Americano). This is one of the many reasons that Caffe Crema is such a lovely treasure, hidden deep in Suburbia. Crema just celebrated it’s first birthday here in Calgary so it’s relatively new. It’s located waaaaay out in Suburbia, close to us and is that local neighborhood coffee shop that actually makes good coffee. Sexy Husband and I are the type to shamelessly drive allllll the way downtown any time we want, just to get a good coffee. I am unapologetic about my need for particularly delicious coffee and great service. Thanks to Caffe Crema, I don’t often have to darken the door of Starbucks (not to offend Starbucks lovers out there. Starbucks will always represent our generation of coffee shop culture and I instantly feel at home in any city when I see one. Just saying…mediocre generic coffee…not my thing.) Here are a few reasons why I heart Caffe Crema:

1. Good Coffee: I don’t care how cute and friendly the coffee shop is. If the coffee is not good, I’m not gonna go. Crema uses beans from Fratello Roasters, local Calgary superstars who roast consciously purchased beans. There is usually a variety of beans AND coffee tastings weekly! They were just voted into the top 5 Calgary Coffee Shops by the Krups Kup of Excellence event!

good coffee

2. Good People: Owners Jeff and Stephanie Halldorsen are so lovely and wonderful. Charissa the Manager and her crew of super friendly and knowledgeable baristas are so so great. They remember names and drinks, they are full of personality and pull consistent shots. I honestly feel like I’m in to visit friends every single time I go.

cute and fun baristas

3. Good Concept: I love the idea of bringing good coffee to the people. Lots of people don’t have the time or motivation to get themselves a cup of great coffee, but really, life is better with quality at your fingertips. It’s a super family friendly atmosphere with a good set up for kids, craft nights, live music events, poetry reading nights. It’s kind of a bustling centre for the community in the deep South West.

vintage book collection for sale

Bottom Line: You should pop by and check them out! They can be your friends too! I can almost always be found there Wednesday mornings with my Sisterhood of the Caffeinated Mommies. You check them out HERE.

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