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Category: Alberta

Calgary Trip 2019

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.

Fairmont Palliser

 

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!

Fairmont Palliser

My girl friend and I were visiting Calgary for the weekend, and we were delighted to be able to spend that time at the “Fairmont Palliser”. We are fond of the “Fairmont” chain of hotels with their history and prestige. The “Palliser” is conveniently located in the centre of downtown Calgary, and we were within walking distance to plenty, however due to the rain we mostly kept in doors.

We upgraded our our 2 night stay, taking advantage of their “gold membership” status and perks. A designation that gave us a larger room on their 8th “gold member” floor and access to their lounge space, on the penthouse level. At the latter we could enjoy breakfast buffets daily from 7-11am and stop by for pre-dinner appetizers from 5-6pm. The lounge space was open until 10pm with a honour bar, board games, books, and desserts. There were plenty of seats and a view of the neighbouring buildings from it’s tall windows to look out at.

The breakfast buffets varied slightly from day to day, offering variety. Waffles one day and blueberry pancakes the next, scrambled eggs the first day and egg roulade the second, and herbed potato wedges versus crispy hash brown triangles. Constant were the selection of flakey pastries, fresh fruit, chilled juices, oatmeal, cereal, and hot beverages. Plenty to keep you happy and picking throughout any multiple-day stay.

We only enjoyed appetizers one day, but were told these too rotated. They were tasty, and if you ate and planned well, there was enough for dinner. Here, we enjoyed caramelized carrots with garlic beef, crispy fried chips, vegetables and hummus, and charcuterie.

With so many bars nearby, specialty liquor stores in the neighbourhood, and a artisan liquor program in the hotel itself, we didn’t take anything from the honour bar. Though liquors and wines were available for self pouring, you simply choose what you want and fill out a card that allowed them to charge your hotel room for it.

 

The best cocktails were at the “Palliser’s” hotel lobby lounge/restaurant. Stiff drinks made from local ingredients, in a historically captivating setting.

“The home grown” is made with their own Eau Claire “Hawthron” gin, “Fairmont Palliser” apiary honey, and “See Ya Later Ranch” Brut. An effervescent cocktail that gave you a taste of the hotel.

I noted their 105 specialty cocktail online. We had missed the weekend celebration with it, commemorating their 105 years, but one of the managers kindly offered us a taste with this glass of “Woodford Reserve Old Fashion” with citrus notes; grapefruit, lemon, orange, and strawberries.

I ordered the “Tea and henny” for its name and was thrilled at its pageantry. It was Hennessy VS, Cointreau, Lot 35 tea, syrup, lavender bitters, and cinnamon; served in a tea pot. You pour from pot to tea cup yourself, where we were surprised to learn that it is served chilled.

And here I must note how beautiful the “Hawthorn” washroom was, papered in pink and white flowers against a black background. Perfect for those girls night out selfies.

The only other meal we had at the hotel was room service. Seeing as we had a larger suite with extra tables and chairs we thought to enjoy it a little more.

A king sized bed, chaise lounger, couch and coffee table, and little nook for a desk/work space. Additional little perks included a traditional pant rack, bench at the end of the bed, and humidifier.

The washroom was outfitted with heated floors, a scale, make up mirror; and plenty of toiletries, should you need it.

Room service was delivered on a trolley that folded out to become its own white cloth table. As expected, the food wasn’t anything new or noteworthy. We were just taking advantage of its convenience.

Shrimp cocktail with tangy cocktail sauce and lemon.

Crispy battered chicken finger and fries.

The Garganelli pomodoro pasta with grana padano and basil was presto generic. It was flat in flavour with sweet under tones. Didn’t finish it.

Having time to spare (due to the poor weather), we also decided to indulge in a massage at their spa. And to our delight, was able to get two appointments on the day. We went for their standard “West Coast massage” that had our choice of aromatherapy between lemon grass or Japanese mint. I went for the whole body experience, starting belly down and ending face up with a towel covering my eyes.

I especially liked how she rubbed my feet with a hot towel and then wrapped each individual with another two heated towels. My session ended with a couple of rejuvenating spritz on my face, and her laying my robe over my blanketed body, with my slippers under the bed.

My registered massage therapist then waited for me to get dressed, waiting outside with a cup of water. I was invited to then enjoy their spa space. Reclining chairs in darkened rooms and a counter of tea and sweets to indulge in.

This was all by their indoor pool and hot pot that any hotel guest can enjoy.

The rest of our Calgary adventure we spent eating and drinking around downtown. For part two click the link below.

Calgary Trip 2019

 

FAIRMONT PALLISER
133 9 Avenue SW, Calgary AB, T2P 2M3
403-262-1234
fairmont.com/palliser-calgary

Monplaisir Delicacies Macarons

Today I was invited to the “Monplaisir Delicacies Sampling”, an event that would give me a look at this Calgary based French pastry company for the first time.

They currently only operate out of Calgary, but are looking into the possibility of expanding their line of macarons into Vancouver. So not only is this showcase meant to solicit prospective partners to help sell their goods in and around the Lower Mainland; but to get feedback from locals, such as myself, on their product. Today they were looking for honest feedback to use, to help improve their product, in order to best penetrate our market.

So what sets them apart from all the other macarons options in the city? And what will help them compete against all the local and international macaron brands?

First the size, their macarons are much larger than much of what is offered in the city. But flavour wise, they covered what I would deem standard macaron flavours and then some. Like red velvet, cookies and cream, vanilla bean, lemon, white chocolate, and Nutella. Pistachio being their best seller. I could see that just from taking a bite into one, and being able to immediately appreciate the quality of it and its perfectly chewy texture.

The “Monplaisir” macarons also differ in that they have less colouring added into their shells. This is because adding an excess of dye changes the build of the macaron, and “Monplaisir” prides themselves on the quality of ingredients used. They also prescribe to the traditional way of making French macarons. They refer to this as going back to basics, using less almond flour to earn a great doughy texture in their macarons, much like bread. I got that right away, which was surprising, considering that the batch we were sampling from was three months old. Yet it was still chewy like fresh bread, not one macraon snapped and cracked apart during my visit.

Apparently you can only achieve such results with a natural product. Bake and freeze, then thaw for 30 minutes before serving. This is referred to as “maturing” the product. And they have done this well to keep the centre creamy and the shell crispy yet chewy at the end of the process.

We were also able to try their higher end macaron line. Four alcohol infused and inspired macarons that wouldn’t be making to the Vancouver market, even with partnership. But instead a true show of their creativity and ability to accurately capture, a Banana flambé, Margarita, Rum and raisin, and champagne within a macaron. This is what had them standing out for me, and this would be what I would recommend from them, as something only they offer. Who else painstakingly ties a ribbons around their macarons? But unfortunately, once again they are a Calgary exclusive, available only at their retail shop in Calgary. Although the rest of their macarons are already in Calgary distribution to co-op shopping centres and various local bakeries, selling their goods under their own name.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Well, the product speaks for itself, and the ability to try them, and to chat with the owners to get their insights certainly helped to swing my opinion as well. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MONPLAISIR
751 3 Street SW #410, Calgary AB, T2P 1R6
587-538-0690
s502259531.onlinehome.us/wordpress
Monplaisir Delicacies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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