Monday, January 15th, 2007 at 7:11 pm

Calgary Mini-Break: Recap

Dickson and I went to Calgary this weekend to accompany my sister and her boyfriend. They had tickets to Saturday’s Oilers/Flames tilt (Edmonton lost 3-1. Boo!).

As Amanda and Henry had already purchased Red Arrow tickets long ago, Dickson and I had some flexibility as to when we had to leave. So naturally, we stopped for breakfast at my neighbourhood McDonalds first (pictured below).

Hashbrowns, Sausage Egg McMuffins and Faux-bucks

Yes, you aren’t seeing things – those are actual Starbucks cups (extras gleaned from one of my many previous visits). I’m not normally that cheap, bringing outside drinks into an eating establishment, but in my defense, I had thought we would be eating in the car. Their ease of disposal makes the cups very travel-friendly. Besides, my homemade Folgers produces a much better brew than McDonalds’ coffee (the same can be said of Dickson’s milk-based hot chocolate).

We left the city just after 10am, and though AMA reports had green lighted Calgary commutes, the continuous flurries and windy conditions begged to differ. We passed by several cars that had been abandoned in the ditch, and a few accidents that were even more recent:

Police on the scene

Cars in the ditch

Dickson subsequently concentrating (or is he?)

We arrived in Calgary after 1pm, and drove into the city in search of my first desired stop. Along the way, Dickson realized he had missed a turn, and in a U-turn attempt, nearly slid into a stop sign while trying to avoid an oblivious woman shoveling snow, indifferent to the fact that her life could have been in danger. We were okay, and the Echo had thankfully missed the pole by a few inches.

Without too much difficulty, we found the Buttercream Bake Shoppe (103, 1019-17 Avenue). I was determined to visit one of the cupcake establishments in Calgary (the other being Kensington’s Crave) to compare them with Edmonton’s own.

Buttercream Bake Shoppe exterior

Pricing chart

Cupcake case

Chocolate case

Our purchase

I guess they’re not that much different. The prices are relative to one another (~$2.50 each), and honestly, on a blind taste test, I would not be able to identify the maker of any individual cake. I think it’s more of a novelty thing at this point, for me to visit a bakery if I have the time and means to do so.

After that, we picked up Jen and drove back downtown to check in at our hotel. With the help of the very useful TripAdvisor, I had chosen the Calgary Marriott (110-9 Avenue SE). Located across the street from the Calgary Tower, and within walking distance of urban shopping and a C-Train platform, it was both a convenient and economical option.

Starbucks in the lobby (though I didn’t actually take advantage of it)

Beds

Bathroom (with citrus bath products!)

View of the Calgary Tower (from the 18th floor)

Spacious, with a nice bathroom and a decent view, I didn’t regret my choice. I also found the staff quite courteous and accommodating to requests.

Once we dropped off our luggage, we picked up Violet and headed to Market Mall (3625 Shaganappi Trail NW). Notable was the stationary and gift shop Paper Root Studios, where I picked up a few things. I usually visit the Eaton Centre location, but I found this store had a better selection, and even carried a few Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild items!

Freudian Slippers

Shopped out, the four of us decided on Vietnamese food for dinner. Violet directed us to Pho Kim (1511 Centre B Street NW), a restaurant that has been set up in what appeared to be a converted house. I can’t remember exactly what I ordered, but I found the portion small and broth less flavorful than I would have liked. It definitely paled in comparison to Pagolac and Doan’s in Edmonton.

Pho Kim

My order

The next morning, Dickson and I visited Diner Deluxe (804 Edmonton Trail NE) for a late breakfast. In my planning, I had consulted the “Best of” list published in FFWD Weekly, Calgary’s equivalent to Edmonton’s See Magazine. Diner Deluxe was voted one of the two best places for brunch, so seemed like a safe bet (though really, the place is worth visiting from their very cute website alone). It turns out the Diner is one of five Calgary dining establishments operated by an “inventive culinary couple.” Their other holdings include a bakery, a seafood restaurant, and a cafe. After our experience, I wouldn’t mind heading to Open Range, their steak house, the next time I’m in the city.

Diner Deluxe exterior

Wait sign

Retro TV in the wait area

When we arrived at the restaurant, the place was packed – we were grateful that it was warm out as we waited for the line inside to shift and accommodate us indoors. It seems their brunch is so popular that it warranted the posting of “line etiquette,” including details about line jumping and reminders not to dawdle at the table during busy times. The hostess even wore a shirt with the words “LINE TAMER” on the back.

Diner Deluxe interior

After a not-so-painful 45 minutes, we were seated. With furniture that could have stood in a 50s era, yellow walls, and a wonderful skylight, the dining room was warm and inviting. Part of the kitchen also opened up into the dining area, which is always a reassuring sight. I ordered the frittata (with chicken apple sausage, sundried tomato, and smoked mozza), while Dickson opted for the omelette special.

Mini ketchup bottles

Omelette special with toast and hashbrowns (and orange juice in a goblet!)

Frittata with toast and hashbrowns

My, was the food ever worth the wait – almost even better because of the wait. The frittata was above and beyond Urban Diner’s version – cheesy, and baked to perfection. Dickson similarly enjoyed his omelette.

Comfortably full, we drove to Chinook Centre (6455 Macleod Trail SW), always worth a visit for their large RW & Co. We also managed to stumble upon the Cup-A-Cake cupcake container in Williams Sonoma (or was it in Pottery Barn?). Funny, after all that shopping, I didn’t end up buying anything for myself all weekend.

We left the city just before 6pm, and found the conditions to be markedly better than they had been the day before. Thus, we made good time.

All in all, it was a great break, and a fantastic way to bust up the typical post-holiday blues!