Tuesday, March 18th, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Food Escape to Calgary: Day 2

Of course my favorite type of meal – brunch – had to be eaten in a diner. I settled in the end on Galaxie Diner (1411 11 Street SW), located just outside of the downtown core.

Galaxie Diner exterior

Walking up to the front door, it didn’t look good – the line up actually spilled onto the sidewalk. Thankfully, our wait was just under half an hour, and wasn’t unpleasant in the warm spring sunshine. We had time to peer in the window of the restaurant next door – Palace of Eats – which turned out to be owned and operated by the purveyors of Galaxie.

The number of seats in Galaxie are few – 6 booths and a handful of seats along the counter, but with fast, efficient, and friendly service, it’s no surprise that patrons are willing to wait.

Galaxie interior

Mack enjoying his first coffee of the day

While Diner Deluxe and Avenue Diner can be considered more upscale, Galaxie Diner doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a good old neighbourhood greasy spoon. A variety of menu items including omelettes, eggs benedicts, French toast and a parfait meant most tastes would be satisfied. I decided to order the Montreal Smoked Meat Omelette ($11.75), while Mack customized his Omelette of Choice with mushrooms, ham, and cheese ($11.75). Both were served with unlimited hashbrowns and toast.

Our seat at the counter provided the perfect vantage point of the stove and the two cooks behind it. One had perfected cracking an egg with one hand, and both juggled multiple orders on the same griddle with ease.

Hot on the grill

I almost wish I had a scale to weigh my plate before digging in – the serving was absolutely massive. The omelette was the heartiest I’ve ever had – the Montreal Smoked Meat was more flavourful than ham, but less dense than bacon, and really helped make an otherwise standard breakfast option “pop.”

Montreal Smoked Meat Omelette

The goodies inside my omelette

Mack’s custom omelette

Inside Mack’s omelette

With the bill, we were given two Dubble Bubbles – another reminder of the restaurant’s retro feel and fun.

Bubble gum!

My next planned stop was the Calgary Farmer’s Market. Though we had the address, we did not have a detailed map that would help lead us there. Luckily, Mack’s iPod picked up an unsecured wireless signal, and we were saved.

iPod to the rescue! (No, I am not affiliated with Apple in any way.)

Located in an old airport hangar, I was surprised at the sheer size of the market – it is at least twice the size of Old Strathcona’s, if not more.

Market exterior

Market interior

With over eighty merchants selling everything from handmade crafts, flowers, sweets, preserves, seafood, beef, and of course, produce, this market offers most of the essentials sold at a supermarket. What surprised me about the produce was the availability of imported vegetables – tomatoes from Mexico, plantains and garlic from the U.S., fruit from New Zealand. This is in stark contrast to the focus of Edmonton’s farmer’s markets (and the ideal focus, in my opinion) on locally-grown products. Mack thought this variety could be attributed to the need to cater to the customer – attract them to the market with the atmosphere and unique items, but offer them what they would buy elsewhere.

Produce!

Pet treats

Hi Sebastian!

The main reason for our visit was to sample Phil & Sebastian Coffee. Their coffee and their Clover have a cult following in Calgary, and who were we to question the crowd?

Phil & Sebastian Coffee kiosk

The line-up

The Clover

The price for an individually-brewed cup of coffee was not listed on the overhead menu, so we weren’t sure what we were getting ourselves into. It turns out, it wasn’t so bad – the Ethiopian-sourced cup of coffee was $3.50.

As we waited for our order, we chatted with the barista. He extolled the virtue of single-origin coffee, and we talked a bit about Edmonton’s Transcend and Kerstin’s Chocolates. More than the coffee itself, the passion exuded by the staff for their products made the trip here worthwhile. He even asked us to sniff the beans – twice – after they were ground by the machine.

Design also seems to be a Phil & Sebastian strength – their sleek cups and simple but memorable logo help foster the ideal that Starbucks began – that a cup of coffee can offer the illusion of a better life. Printed on the sleeves:

“We could write on the side of our cups about how we’re nothing like the other guys. We could tell you about the pride we take in every drink we serve. We could write about the contents of this cup being hot, and that you should use caution. We could tell you that Phil’s dad can run faster than your dad. We could write about our goal to raise your expectations of coffee. Or maybe, we could write on the side of our cups that you should probably stop reading this because your drink is getting cold. Enjoy.”

The barista told us to wait a bit before giving it a try (though it would have been impossible to do so if we wanted to – the coffee was scorching hot). The fruity tones were evident in the coffee’s aroma, but wasn’t noticeable in the drink itself. Mack noted that it tasted rich but not burnt, but in the end, I’m not sure I could identify a Clover-brewed coffee in a blind taste test. We’re hoping to head to Transcend this weekend to see what Edmonton has to offer.

“I have coffee and you don’t.”

Chinook Centre was our final stop, since Mack was itching to go shopping and spend his wealth of gift cards. The obligatory stop at the nice and roomy RW & Co. yielded no treasures, but Mack did end up picking up something from Old Navy, so the visit wasn’t fruitless.

On our way back to Edmonton, we stopped in Red Deer to have dinner with Tom and Bry at Boston Pizza. The waitress was obviously new, or not very good at multitasking, but it gave us time to catch up. Mack and I ordered the poutine, and I hoped that it would be better than the time before, but no, the gravy was just as lukewarm. But food aside, it was a good meal.

From my last few trips down to Calgary, I think I’ve finally been able to get past the elementary “must hate the city of the Flames” mentality. Not only do they have great restaurants, but the arts scene is more active than I could have ever imagined. Who knew?

The rest of my pictures can be seen on Flickr.