Few months shy of a year ago, my girl friend and I bid on, and won at a charity auction. Our prize was redeemed as this trip.
Flight for two and a two night stay at the “Fairmont Palliser”, in town to enjoy a champagne hot air balloon experience. But sadly even with all the best planning, we could not predict the weather, as we got Vancouver-like rain in Calgary (which we were told is rare). Therefore we unable to go up up into the air in a hot air balloon. So instead, this post reviews how we kept busy and how much we ate and drank in lieu. Here is 48 hours in Calgary!
We stayed at the illustrious “Fairmont Palliser” and we maximized our visit with a room upgrade, access to their gold member lounge, a trip to the spa, drinks at their Hawthorn restaurant, and room service. For the full “Fairmont Palliser” experience, check out the link below.
The following is all sights we saw, the meals we ate, and the drinks we drank.
Our winning package included two $300 gift cards to sister restaurants “River Cafe” and “Deane’s House”. The former was located in a park, with a walk across a bridge over a river required, (hence the name of the restaurant).
It was decorated in a cabin theme with natural logs, worn furniture, and chairs assembled using branches. The bar utilized snow shoes for decoration, and its shelves were crafted from half a canoe. This rustic feeling and theme continued into the food and their drinks, like the “Cabin Fever”.
The “Cabin Fever” cocktail featured Forty creek whiskey, ginger, lime bitters, and soda. A refreshing drink that eased into our bottle of champagne.
Realizing that we wouldn’t be able to eat $300 worth of food. Nor would we be visiting anytime soon, so we decided to fully indulge with our gift card, using it all. And here, we had the “Pol Roger blanc de blanc Chardonnay”, a bottle of champagne priced at $204. This definitely set the tone of the trip.
For food we had the “Fogo island snow crab” with artisan sake kasu, Edgar farms peas, espelette chilli, cedar jelly, and spruce shoots. This was my favourite dish because I am a fan of peas and their pops of freshness. The sweetness of the peas played off the sweetness of the crab, whereas the pea shots added a mild spice to the mix.
In contrast we had the “Bison tartare” with Oat crema, pickled Saskatoon berries, puffed rice fife, and cucumber. This was another beautifully presented plate. Fresh flavours to accent the peppery meat. Tart berry and refreshing cucumbers, cut perfectly into cubes. Each balanced meat and vegetable bite was best paired with bread from our complimentary basket. It needed a base.
Similarly the “Fish and game board” was best enjoyed with its side of canola seed crackers for crunch and textural contrast. It ate like a fried and flaky pastry chip, topped with your choice of wild sockeye salmon, bison pemmican, goose ham, rabbit rillette, or coppa. “Coppa” is thinly cut slices of pork shoulder, a little sweet, with pockets of fat in all the right ways. The pemmican was like a chewier jerky that crumbled. I wasn’t a fan of the dry rabbit product severed chunky and cold. The goose ham was fatty, it reminded me of duck in its flavour. And the salmon was some of the freshest I have ever had.
At Deane’s House we had a similar indulgent experience, we drank more than we ate, also ordering the priciest bottle of champagne that they had. The $188 bottle of “NV Bruno paillard rose premiere cuvee”.
We visited during brunch so had their “Side stripe shrimp and Scotch egg” with pecans, deep water greens, and a chilli rhubarb vinaigrette. It ate like a salad, outside the soft boiled egg wrapped in a spicy herb sausage patty, then battered and deep fried. The shrimp lent sweetness, the pickled beets some tang, and the broccolini plenty of crunch.
We also enjoyed half a dozen fresh shucked oysters from the East Coast, served with a ginger and rhubarb minuet and their house made chilli sauce. The sauces made all the difference.
Still with a balance on our $300 “Deane’s House” gift card we furthered the brunch time vibe with two classic brunch cocktails, their seasonal mimosa with peach juice and a simple caesar made with “Walter’s Caesar” mix.
Throughout our three days and two nights we would hop in and out of bars and restaurants, stopping for a drink and/or small bites. They are the following.
After exploring the “Core” mall we ended at Calgary’s “Hy’s” for some bone in ribeye done medium rare. Because when in the province of Alberta one must indulge in some quality Alberta beef. And naturally if eating steak you must visit one of the best restaurants specializing in it. And the pair it with their buttery smooth whipped potatoes.
For drinks, I had their seasonal “Pink Wink” cocktail with Sobieski vodka, honey water, ginger beer, grapefruit, pineapple, and lime juice.
We then stopped at “Metropolitan” restaurant where I disliked the 2 cocktails I tried. The first was so bad that I sent it back, it also wasn’t made as the menu listed. The second cocktail was so sweet that pinched my nose to be able to take it down. The two were so horrible, that I will never eat at the restaurant because of them.
The menu described the “Silly sailor” as Sailor jerry rum, lime juice, house made grenadine, pineapple whip, pineaapple juice, and vanilla extract. I didn’t get any pineapple and the whipped cream topping was from a can, that I saw the bartender use.
I liked the idea of a “Brûlée sour”, but didn’t realize it would be so sweet. Bombay sapphire gin, amaretto, lemon juice, egg whites, sugar water, and brown sugar. It was at least torched like you would expect a creme brûlée to be.
Our next stop was “Murrie’s” for another drink and some nibbles. I had the “Weekend at Murrie’s #2” for the novelty of drinking out of a tiki mug. A drink as tropical tasting as it looks. Plantation pineapple, Bacardi 4 year, siderit, averna, freshly squeeze grapefruit, house made orgeat, and a sombra mezcal float.
My guest had another glass of wine and we shared some calamari coated in chickpea flour and flavoured with za’atar spice. A different twist to a classic, with a warmer and zestier spice note.
The next day we continued our drinking tour in Calgary’s Inglewood, which saw us shopping the local boutiques and pausing for a cocktail in between.
Two quick popular brunch cocktails at “Monki”, an eye catching bistro with its monkey skull and cross bones logo. We sat at their micro bar, sharing the counter with an impressive collection of quirky hot sauce bottles.
The “showstopper mimosa” gave you 0.5oz more of sparkling wine than a regular mimosa, and topped with a rotating juice feature. The “bad a** caesar” gave you a choice between vodka or gin and mixed it with tomato juice and their own “monki” blend of hot sauces.
We also took some wine to go from a local liquor store in the area. We were sold on this taller, usual bottle of red German wine.
But we spent most of our time exploring Calgary at the Calgary zoo, taking in the animals, the exhibits, and the fact that it wasn’t raining yet. We easily cleared 10,000 steps. There was so much to see, this is the largest zoo I have visited to date. Below are a few of my favourite photos.
Overall, this was a great trip, and now we have a reason to return. We have to come back next summer to try a second go at our hot air balloon experience. In fact, we have already booked our hotel for next year, with the intention to visit during the Calgary Stampede!