Alberta trip report, December 2023 [Lethbridge] [Calgary] [Edmonton]

We are in Alberta for a biennial visiting with relatives and friends. While the majority of our meals will be home cooked, we have fit in a number of meals out that we will report on.

First up is lunch in Lethbridge. For a number of years, our favourite place here has been Two Guys and a Pizza Place. While there are some fancier restaurants and some good culturally-specific places in town, this place is dependably tasty and we come back every trip. This is not Neapolitan-style or any other regional specialty, just good quality crust with a variety of fun ingredients. One previous favourite is the Perogy Pizzazz 2.0 with rosemary-garlic potatoes, bacon, sour cream, chives, and cheddar.

This time we went with The Italian Club: pesto, capicola, pancetta, provolone, onions, tomatoes, arugula, balsamic, and parmesan - like an Italian sandwich in pizza form.

We also tried the Banh Mi Chicken: garlic aioli, chicken breast, jalapeno, cucumber, carrot, onion, cilantro, hoisin - despite being a few steps removed from a banh mi, this tasted quite good.

We also had the arugula and beet salad, which includes pecans, goat cheese, pancetta, and onions in an orange vinaigrette - very nice and we’ve had it before.

Thinking an $8 dessert wouldn’t be much, we ordered the Nutella s’more calzone. This turned out to be a giant meal-sized dish, stuffed with melted marshmallows and Nutella. We saved half for later.

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A friend runs the Kingsmen Ale House in Lethbridge, so we went there for lunch. It’s has a typical English-style pub interior and the menu is fairly standard pub fare with some nice flourishes.

We had the margarita sour (cherry wood smoke, Don Julio blanco tequila, Grand Marnier, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, smoked sea salt rim, lime wheel) - arrived smoking but no egg white or lime wheel in sight. Pretty good but the salt rim tasted like it was mixed with sugar, so the effect was a little too sweet, even though the smoke was nice. Blood orange ale from Burnside in Medicine Hat was better, nice and citrusy.

The Jack the Ripper roast beef sandwich came with buffalo sauce, candied jalapeños, onion, potato crisps (in the sandwich), cheddar ale sauce, on a ciabatta - yummy and had a good kick from the candied jalapeños and was moist from the sauces. It came with dusted fries (Parmesan and black pepper) - crisp on the outside and creamy inside, nicely accented by the “dust”.

A lunch special was the ½ Irish Reuben - corned beef, Swiss cheese, house made sauerkraut, maple Dijon mustard, on a toasted baguette - satisfying sandwich, though a bit more sauerkraut would have been nice. It came with Buckingham salad - mixed greens, cranberries, candied walnuts, goat cheese, lemon vinaigrette - fresh and balanced between sweet and tangy.

New York-style cheesecake with bourbon caramel and candied maple bacon - fun and pretty good, though lighter than a typical New York cheesecake.

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I enjoyed 10 Foot Henry in Calgary in 2019. I have been sending gift certificates for 10 Foot Henry to some cousins for bday presents since then.

My friend likes Vintage Chophouse a lot.

Another friend likes Proof for cocktails, as well as Bridgette Bar.

Enjoy Alberta!

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Our next meal our was lunch in Calgary. We still love River Café, even though it can be a bit uneven. The setting remains unparalleled and we still find the food very enjoyable, with lots of local focus.

We tried one cocktail: Night Flight - Empress gin, maraschino, Lee Spirits crème de violette, lime - gorgeous to the eye and palate.

We also had two glasses of wine from Blue Mountain: the 2022 pinot blanc (bright acidity like sauvignon blanc, grapefruit, and cedar) and the 2020 gamay noir (bloody cherries like Beaujolais).

First up was the irresistible Highwood Crossing red fife sourdough bread, with house churned butter and Vancouver Island sea salt - chewy crust, soft springy interior, sour tang and a bit of sweet also.

We’ve always enjoyed their charcuterie and the current selection was no exception. It featured pickled kohlrabi, coppa, pâté en croûte, Saskatoon berry preserve (smooth, not sweet, and very flavourful), Calabrian salumi, potted Fogo Island shrimp poached in brown butter with crispy potato, BC smoked salmon, and flaxseed lavash crackers - a great variety, with everything well-executed.


Eschewing another first course, we instead ordered the roasted cauliflower main, with black garlic emulsion, hazelnut mole, shaved goat feta, puffed rice, sunflower sprouts - the cauliflower was roasted until it was soft and sweet and the other elements added some richness and complexity. Perhaps the best dish overall.

The next main was the HGB bison shank ragu over creamy cornmeal polenta, roasted broxburn tomatoes, grilled ARK kale and frisée - the meat was tender and smokey, but a bit oversalted; the tomatoes were concentrated flavour bursts.

Our other main was the Farming Worx duck confit over Highland Crossing foxtail millet, Amiable Organics fennel (braised and pickled), and frisée - the duck skin could have been crisper, but the meat was moist and rich; the millet was a highlight, almost risotto-ish.

For dessert we split the poached pear pavlova, with Alberta wild rice pudding, fermented pear gel, mascarpone whip, and pistachio - beautiful, if a bit too sweet.

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Coincidentally, our next Calgary meal was Ten Foot Henry!

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I lived a short walk from River Café for 3 years, and I have visited Calgary around a dozen times since I left, but I have never managed to have a meal at River Café. Some day, hopefully!

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We met with friends for dinner at Ten Foot Henry in Calgary. It’s a lively and noisy open space in the downtown. Food was vegetable-forward and overall excellent.

They had a nice selection of wines. Our friends don’t drink so we went with a couple of glasses:

  • A Sunday in August, gewurztraminer/vidal, Salt Spring Island, 2022 - tangy and fruity, with definite mushroom notes.
  • A. J. Adam, Im Pfarrgarten, Riesling Feinherb, Mosel, 2022 - pleasant, slightly floral.

We focused on the vegetable small plates and never made it to the meaty mains. First up was the cauliflower with gojuchang, sesame, scallion, ginger - straightforward, with lots of umami.

Thick, juicy pieces of maitake mushroom came with creamy polenta and were enhanced with sweet date syrup and crispy frico.

Sweet roasted delicata squash was covered in coconut crumb, fried sage leaves, served in a pool of subtle spinach soubise.

Broccolini came with tonnato, agrodolce, lemon zest, two kinds of raisins, capers and maybe caper berries - lots of strong flavours vying for attention.

Charred cabbage was dressed in walnut vinaigrette, with brittle and manchego over top - sweet, almost a dessert cabbage.

The best pasta and perhaps the best dish of the evening was the gigli with kale pesto, pistachio dukka, grana padano - simple and yet rich with flavours.

Spaghetti cacio e pepe was well-executed and loved by our friends. We thought the additional butter was unnecessary and made the dish a tad too rich.

We had room for only one dessert, the moist coconut cake, covered with coconut milk frosting and toasted coconut - simple and lovely.

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We’re now in Edmonton, mainly eating at home with family. However we had a chance to have brunch at Darling with at friend. We had been once before for post-dinner glasses of wine. It’s a lovely space, with simple design and comfortable seating. The food was delicious and the only downside was being rushed out to facilitate table turnover. We’d love to try dinner there at some point.

The Spanish potato omelette featured creamy, thinly sliced potatoes bound together with egg and herbs. It came with some salad and creme fraiche.

The mushroom tartine had supple oyster mushrooms covered with two runny eggs and fromage blanc - decadent and delicious.

The best option was the brioche French toast, which was light and airy and smothered with kabosu anglaise, haskap agrodulce, and chamomile meringue - plus some maple syrup for extra sweetness.

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We met a friend for dinner at Biera, an upscale brewpub restaurant. It’s a large open space and fairly casual. The food is eclectic and generally good, though on the rich end of the of spectrum. The beer, by Blind Enthusiasm, is excellent. The service could have been better (see below).

I tried the 4-beer Preset Sampledoodle:

  • ZüS - an amber wheat ale that was light and tasted of bananas
  • Haze Zee - a refreshing, citrusy ale
  • Lil’ Broski - a roasted malt ale, with lots of chocolate notes
  • Tandy - a hoppier amber ale, with hints of evergreen

My wife had a cocktail of Spolumbo’s Amaro and housemade root beer, which was delicious and tasted prominently of vanilla. However our server did not check on whether she wanted something else and didn’t look at us when we kept trying to flag him down. By the time we got another server to get him to come to us, it was too late into the meal to bother.

We started with the Lois Lake steelhead trout carpaccio - supple trout over cold pressed canola oil, ginger oil, Japanese lime, drizzled with tonnato, and topped with fried onion. This was perhaps the best dish of the evening, with a great balance of acid with the richness. Our friend wanted to order this dish for herself, minus the tonnato because she doesn’t eat mayo. However they would not honour this request as the chef felt it would upset the balance of the dish, this despite the fact that we were already eating an order of the dish and told them that the tonnato-less pieces tasted just fine.

The grass-fed beef tartare was a fairly straightforward rendition, served with an undetectable smoked beef fat emulsion, horseradish, and sourdough toast - enjoyable, if unremarkable.

Lakeside Dairy fromage blanc and squash dumplings were pleasantly sweet and came with kale and pumpkin seed pesto as well as beurre blanc - this dish could have used one less rich ingredient or some acid for balance.

The wood-fired Ontario maitake mushrooms were slightly smokey and glazed with a whiskey-soya sauce mixture. Parsnip chips, black cardamom, and smoked onion aioli provided additional accents. Overall good, though a bit less salt would have made the dish great.

We shared just one dessert: the apricot kernel semifreddo with pumpkin seed, thyme, lemon, and red wine-poached pears. This was superb, both in visual appeal and flavours. The dish was not too sweet and the small amount of thyme was enough to accent but not overwhelm the delicate pears.

We missed trying any of the meats, which looked good. However we are more likely to have repeat visits to other Edmonton restaurants in the future.

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For a Boxing Day lunch with a family with young kids, we brought over pizza and doughnuts. Pizza was from a nearby outpost of Red Swan Pizza, unfamiliar to us and favoured by one of the kids. It is a Canadian chain that was founded a few years ago in Saskatoon and has now expanded into 120 locations, mostly in small towns in the western provinces. Doughnuts were from Doughnut Party, an Edmonton mini-chain that started off in the farmer’s market.

The pizza crust was innocuous and lacked the chew and flavour of yeast-raised dough. It’s distinctive feature was sesame seeds on the edges. The toppings range from standard (the kids got a cheese pizza and a pepperoni pizza) to somewhat silly. We went for some of the latter.

Spicy Perogy had potato wedges, sausage, bacon, red onion, jalapeño, cheddar, mozzarella, and was drizzled with sour cream. It was fun, though only vaguely reminiscent of the eastern European staple.

Beef Taco featured ground beef, chopped tomato, jalapeño, salsa, red onion, cheddar cheese, and was topped with sour cream and crispy shredded iceberg lettuce. It was fairly reminiscent of tacos - the Old El Paso version mind you.

The doughnuts were part of a holiday set. They were all glazed type (light and not oily) with different dips and toppings. The best tasting was probably the Odd Chocolate Orange (bottom right).

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Our last Edmonton foray was for mid-afternoon drinks and snacks at Tiki Tiki on Whyte, a fairly new bar. It has an appropriately tacky tiki interior. The drinks are tropical and fun, with plenty of parasols and flashing lights hidden in the ice. What we sampled from the menu was on theme and reasonably tasty.

We sampled 4 cocktails:

Tiki Tiki Mai Tai [below right] - dark rum, spiced rum, Triple Sec, lime juice, pineapple juice, Przata (orgeat), mint - really well balanced and not as strong as the ones we’ve had in Hawai’i.

Mainlander [below middle] - spiced rum, dark rum, cherry syrup, Falernum, grenadine, pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, lime juice, bitters - very pleasant, but perhaps not quite as interesting as the mai tai.

Dole Whip Piña Colada [below left] - dark rum, pineapple juice, coconut water, coconut syrup, Dole whip - in a pineapple mug, delicious, not as creamy as usual because of the coconut water substituting for coconut cream.


Mermaid Water - “mermaid juice” (flat cider and various other things), blue curacao, Malibu spiced rum - in a glass fish, mainly orange and spices, a bit sweet until the ice melted some.

We split a bowl of the saimin noodles. This featured overcooked egg noodles (not saimin/ramen noodles), “Polynesian fusion broth”, grilled spam, green onions, various house-pickled vegetables, fried egg, and sides of lava Pele spice and a garlic spice sauce. Though not at all like saimin, it was still quite enjoyable.

We were talked into ordering the pineapple upside down cake, which featured caramelised pineapple, toasted coconut, moist pineapple vanilla sponge cake, and amarena cherry - while a little sweet, it was very good.

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