This Girl Reads Books

Yes, it’s true. This girl has fallen into an absolute spiral of locking herself in her basement and just all reading books, all the time. Why? Why have I turned into a book hermit?

Partially – I went to a writing conference with my brother Kevin from the weekend of August 10-12. You know how being around people who are hyped about the books they are writing just makes you want to read all the books they are writing?

Partially – it’s been hot and smoky in Calgary which makes me just want to hang in a cool, dark, well ventilated space. It’s as if I am a good bottle of red wine. (And yes, I know we are so much luckier than our friends in BC or California, but my asthmatic lungs just can’t mess with that 10+ air quality index situation.)

And partially – I have a problem that I think all my book buddies can relate to. I put a bunch of buzzy e-books on hold at the library, I waited months for them and then suddenly they all came in within days of each other. Yeah. That’s what I’m dealing with. My life is obviously terribly challenging. #firstworldproblems

Reading books, while being terribly fun, inspiring and transforming, is not exceptionally good blog content. Unless you do what I’m doing… and review a few of the books you’ve read lately! Yes! Without further ado… here are some books:

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

How can a goddess be so human in her flaws and dreams? Circle is absolutely magical in its re-telling of the full mythology of Circe (not just her appearance in The Odyssey). It is equal parts poetry and modern realism and absolutely compelling.

I’m super into Greek mythology, mostly due to performing in productions of Oedipus Rex, Antigone and The Trojan Women during university. Well, and Troy. Man, I love a trashy, non-historically accurate “historical fiction” movie. Circe takes the Circe of The Odyssey and pieces together the various myths about her in an absolutely gorgeous way. It does start up a little bit slowly and I did keep thinking every mortal she met was Odysseus but I still whipped through this dense book in something along the lines of three days.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Ugh.

I’m sorry. I loved The Rosie Project and I just kind of felt like this book subverted everything that was charming and quirky about the first book by taking it too far. In an attempt to create drama, Simision pulled all the characters so far that they were just unlikable. Your mileage may vary, but this book was not my jam. Some books just don’t need a sequel, methinks.

The Fountain by Suzy Vadori

The Fountain by Suzy Vadori

As a YA novel, you expect a quick read (which isn’t a bad thing!) – what I didn’t expect was to be completely engrossed and whip through this lovely little story in about two hours. Vadori masterfully paints what it’s like to be a teenager (granted, a teenager who makes a casual wish only to have it actually come true… can’t we all identify with that?) in a novel filled with magic, friends and rivals, adventure and a tiny bit of romance.

I whipped through The Fountain over a glass of wine and reviled in the memory of what it was like to be a teenager and live vicariously through a little magic.

Vacationland by John Hodgman

Vacationland by John Hodgman

No, John Hodgman is not particularly relatable. But who wants to read a memoir that basically describes their own life? He is insightful, funny and incredibly self-aware. Just like his podcast, Vacationland offers an absurdly witty reflection on the human condition told by a man who was once a teenager who just wanted to grow up to be a middle-aged bachelor.

I do think you might need to be into John Hodgman and his whole vibe in order to appreciate this book… but isn’t that true of a lot of memoirs? Context is key.

You can check me out on Goodreads (which I literally just started up), if you so wish… or you could just recommend me some good books here! Hit me up, whatcha reading!?

All images lovingly stolen from Goodreads

BOOM – Theatre Calgary

boom-final-rgb
(Note: This image comes directly from the Theatre Calgary website, as a girl can only take so many pictures in the semi-darkness of her wine and program in her theatre box before it gets weird and her readers get tired of looking at it.)

Much like Theatre Calgary’s first offering of the season, BOOM crazy surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. I did a little reading on the TC website, as well as a little exploration of Rick Miller’s Official Boom website prior to seeing the show and I just felt like I couldn’t get a grasp on the show. The description made me think of a theme park variety show and, to my mind, did not do it justice.

Of course, I was wrong. Why do I even try to read about shows beforehand? The reason I love theatre is because it hits you in a visceral way, touching something inside you, that is hard to put into words so why do I expect copy written for a website to communicate that?

BOOM is a tapestry, not a variety show. It is a mixture of the sweeping world history between 1945 to 1969 and the personal stories of important baby boomers in the playwright/actor’s life. It is a collection of music, stories, imitations, news clips, advertisements, cultural touchstones. I personally don’t truly have a baby boomer in my life – my mom was born in 1961 so she didn’t remember any of the events referenced in the show, but my grandparents were already well grownup and established by 1945 – but I do love history and I was able to give myself over to the three characters that were growing up over the twenty years the show covers.

I don’t know that I can truly put into words what seeing BOOM is like any better than the Theatre Calgary website can – the show is running until October 29th, though, and tickets are available on at Theatre Calgary. I highly recommend seeing this one for yourself, I can guarantee it is like no other show you’ll see at Theatre Calgary this year. When picking your seats, I would pick ones in the centre section of the theatre (even in balconies) rather than any of the side boxes – though I loved being away from the riff-raff, I felt like I missed the full experience of some of BOOM’s projections from my angle.

Disclaimer: I know it sounds like I love every show I see. This is not the case… I just prefer to write about the shows that I love so that I can get other people to see them which thus gives me someone to talk to about them. I’m really terrifically selfish in that way.

‘da Kink In My Hair – Theatre Calgary

da Kink In My Hair
Caption: Yaaaasss, Gaga, we got a box this year! We are tired of bozos and just want to enjoy good theatre and that is what the box is for, y’all!

Fall is officially here and that means theatre season is back on in Calgary. Granted, during the summer there is a smattering of theatre offering in Calgary – Shakespeare by the Bow, the Common Ground festival and the Calgary Fringe Festival being some of the most notable – but I tend to take the summer off to regroup and nourish my artistic spirit… by reading a ton of books, laying in the sun and taking fitness classes, I guess? I don’t know… and I actually started rehearsing my current show during August this year so I’m really just rambling now.

tl;dr – Theatre is back and I’m back.

Speaking of the Fringe Festival, the first show I’m writing about this year is one of those stunning Fringe Festival success stories that every theatre artist dreams of happening for them. Fifteen years ago Trey Anthony created ‘da Kink In My Hair for the Toronto Fringe Festival because she was determined to create the type of roles she deserved to play rather than accepting the type of roles that were being offered to her – and it became a runaway hit with productions in the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, across the US and London, and even a tv series. The Theatre Calgary production runs until October 1 and then transfers to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

In the interest of complete honesty, I was surprised by how much I related to this show. When I was a teenager, I was always trying to relate to shows that actually had nothing to do with my lovely Newmarket existence and since I was a teenager in the GTA in 2001, I sort of figured that ‘da Kink In My Hair fit into that box without ever having actually seen it. In the grand tradition of “Erin walking into the theatre with preconceived notions”, I was wrong and I’m very pleased. Bits and pieces of every one of the women resonated with me and Virgilia Griffith as Stacey-Anne absolutely stole the show, leaving me with a lump in my throat as she embodied such a real and joyous little girl. For the skeptics out there, the show does get a little bit “Fringe show”-y as it hits every single “big issue” but the performances are full of such heart and are so honest that I was able to fully put aside my inner skeptic and give in to the story.

It’s terribly on brand for me to love this show – after all, my theatre company was also developed to give a voice to all the incredible young female artists I know – but ‘da Kink was transformative and is important. To horribly paraphrase Craig Finn talking about the experience of performing music… There is so much joy in what they do up there.

‘da Kink In My Hair is a musical in its purest sense – as I remember so many of my best teachers saying, a show should happen in a musical when the feelings get too strong for mere words and you have to sing them instead. That is exactly where the songs in ‘da Kink spring from and though I didn’t walk away singing any of the tunes, I was completely carried away by each of them. (And, confession: I do sometimes catch myself humming “What am I gonna do with this hair? My hair my hair my hair…” as I try to wrangle my hair into a cute 1939 style for my show.) All the women have beautiful voices but Krystle Chance as Sharmaine in particular is just absolutely stunning. Her second act solo is a true standout.

‘da Kink In My Hair is a strong season opener and an interesting choice for a transitional season (Dennis Garnham has stepped down as TC Artistic Director and Shari Wattling has stepped in as Interim Artistic Director). It runs until October 1, 2016 and you can get tickets hereafter you come to see my current show, which also closes on Oct 1 and I will be writing about very very soon.

Things I Ate at the Calgary Stampede

Okay. Dudes and dudettes, you may or may not know that I am currently on vacay in BC for a week. I usually spend my vacations touring around places I haven’t really been to before but this year I dropped all my extra cash on London, so instead I’m just relaxing out at my parents’ place in Kimberley. It’s been a lot of reading beach trash, drinking boxed wine and brainstorming blog post ideas so I don’t fall behind again. It’s awesome but it’s probably making me lazy. I don’t want to let the Stampede fall too far in the past, since it closed on Sunday, but I am on vacay, so let’s keep it real easy and start off by talking about “Things I Ate at the Calgary Stampede” (I know, I know, be so jealous).

tophies
bbq and mikes
Pulled Pork Sandwich
At Stampede, you’ll quickly learn that there is pretty solid BBQ all over the place, specifically down the alley towards the Grandstand. How does a girl decide which barbeque stand deserves their well-earned $10? If you’re me, it’s the one with all the trophies, obviously! Most of these trophies are actually for their brisket but pulled pork is one of my very favourite meals (actually, I’m a sucker for pulled meats in general) so I went for it along with a Mike’s Hard Root Beer. Which?! Rootbeer beers are all the rage right now according to my dad who is “in the industry” (read: has a retirement job working at a liquor store) and yeah this tastes 100% just like root beer. So dangerous!

elvis
The Elvis
Guys, I get it. I now know how Elvis became Fat Elvis because I too have experienced the deliciousness that is a bacon, banana and peanut butter sandwich – in my case from The Peanut Butter Cupboard food truck. I stood in the rain for this guy and did not regret it at all – the perfect picture of salty-sweet. I might be able to recreate it at home but instead, I might just try to stalk this food truck around town instead… It’s summer in Calgary, they must be everywhere, right!?

mini donuts
Mini Donuts
And I rounded out that day of Stampeding with a little bag of mini donut – aka little clouds of sugary heaven. I somehow managed to save half for the next day and refreshed them at work by microwaving them for just 15 seconds. All my friends were so jealous.
Note: Don’t be fooled by imitators. The only place to get mini donuts is at the big yellow stand between the Big Four and BMO Centre called “Those Little Donuts”. I repeat do not go anywhere else.

Waffles and Chix
Fried Chicken Poutine
Another day kicked off with this not-so-little goodie from the Waffles & Chix stand. Waffles & Chix are actually all over the place in Calgary between their food truck and their booth at the Crossroads Farmers’ Market. But my mom and I enjoyed the fried chicken poutine a few years ago and it was so good that I have never wanted to taint the memory. This year we finally did and it was just as delicious as we remembered – all melty cheese curds and a bit of shredded cheese to fill it out, white gravy and delicately breaded fried chicken. Note that it is definitely a sharing portion. And that I was so excited to eat it that I didn’t take a picture… also, I was busy helping the little boy sitting next to me not lose his plate. It was a dramatic time. The picture above is blatantly ripped off the internet.

cheese pairing
Cheese Pairing
After all the craziness of the midway, Stampede Show Band and snowmobiles hopping over jumps (to be explained in a later post…), my mom and I needed a little Zen so we hit up the Co-op Wine Garden and enjoyed a little wine flight with cheese pairings. We have been obsessive with trying to pair our cheese and wine ever since (and we definitely have been carrying that little pairing card around with us) so that speaks highly to the success of it, yes?

nachos
Nachos and Beer at The Station
Did you know that there is a small beer garden with 20 types of wings, beer on tap and table service in the basement of the Big Four? (There’s also a ton of excellent food options down there, including some truly remarkable tacos from Anejo.) My mom recently had a cyst rupture in her knee so she needs regular walking breaks and we decided to just check out what was what in order to find a 30 minute sitting break. What a great choice! I was so thrilled with the table service, I couldn’t stop telling everyone how excited I really was. I’ve always found that wings are a lot of work for little pay-off and the nachos looked so incredible being carried by so we decided to go with them instead. They were a little bit on the spicy side but the full on potato slice they were made on were incredible and sitting in the Station was such a nice relaxing note to the end of our stampede day. Check it out next year.

mini donut popsicle
Mini Donut Popsicle
Okay, despite the fact that it was raining/hailing and I was wearing shorts, my day actually ended with a mini-donut popsicle. Last year I ate about four of these beauties – the dulce de leche base is so decadent without being overwhelming and y’all already know how I feel about mini donuts – and even though it was not popsicle weather, I couldn’t resist! Even if it meant I had an old lady comment about my shorts and popsicle combo… whatever, I gotta do me!

Seriously, mini donut popsicles, beer in the basement, crazy poutine… do it all. But don’t go to the wine garden. That’s just for me.

Cherry Pit – One Day Juice Cleanse

Juice Cleanse

As those of you who follow me on social media have undoubtably already seen, on Monday I did a petite one day juice cleanse. With the Calgary Stampede looming on the horizon and a booze-soaked girls weekend in Kimberley behind me, it just seemed like a good choice to try to get my system a little bit back in line. (Why yes, we did purchase 11 bottles of wine for three girls. We didn’t drink all of them, though, I swear! Seriously. That sounds like a made up swear, but it’s true! Anyway… moving on…)

In the past, I’ve only done three day cleanses and the one day cleanse was a walk in the park, by comparison. I did take a late night “Barre, Core, Stretch” class at Barre Body Studio on Monday and, though I was a little bit hungry after Lindsay put us through an insane tricep/oblique series, it was so refreshing to know that I had a juice waiting for me at home and even if it didn’t completely quench my hunger it didn’t matter because I got to eat on Tuesday morning. I even did my meal prep for the week on Monday night and my food monster remained in check! So, without further ado – my petite review of my petite cleanse.

Where did my cleanse come from?
Great question! (That I asked myself… maybe I shouldn’t reveal the conceit. Anyway…) In the past, I’ve purchased three day cleanses from an old A Flimsy Plan favourite, Cru Juice, but this time I decided to go for something a little shorter and a little bit cheaper. The one day cleanse from Cherry Pit, located at The Calgary Farmers’ Market fit the bill – super easy to pick up since I was already there and only $40 for one day! Apparently you can also order cleanses ahead of time online by emailing in, but I am clearly far too impetuous for that.

8:00 am – “The Hulk”
Kale, Apple, Celery, Lemon, Ginger

Starting off my day with a glass of hot lemon water and a green juice felt oh-so-virtuous. I really think it set me up with a positive frame of mind for my day. This juice was sweeter than I expected (a nice surprise for a green juice!) and I could definitely sense the celery in the after-taste, though not at all in an unpleasant way.

10:00 am – “Tropical Paradise”
Green apple, Pineapple, Lemon, Mint

A variation of this juice seems to be a standby in most cleanses (Blueprint Cleanse calls it “PAM”, Cru offers the “Pumped Up Kicks” which is similar but includes aloe vera) and with good cause – it’s nice to have something a little bit sweet to help pump up your blood sugar when mid-morning hits and it suddenly becomes very real that you will not be eating today, my friend. My morning at work was quite busy and the juice was sweet enough that I was able to alternate this guy with sips of water and spread it out over about an hour and a half until it was almost time for the next juice!

12:00 pm – “Carrot”
Carrot, Orange, Apple

Again, in the fall, Cru Juice offers a similar carrot juice that I just do not love… their variation includes yam and a few spices that I can’t remember at the moment – so either I really like orange or I really don’t like the spice I can’t remember, because I loved this carrot juice! I also appreciate the vegetable based juices during a cleanse because they seem a little “thicker”, and therefore more filling, which this one definitely did. As a note, I was developing such a headache by this point.

1:30 pm

The headache was still there. Maybe it was a caffeine headache, as I had tried to be good and not have any coffee that morning? Maybe. I drank two cups of David’s Tea’s “Cream of Earl Grey” and it did help some. It was probably a caffeine headache.

3:30 pm – “Heart Beet”
Beet, Carrot, Apple, Ginger, Lemon

Can we talk about how cute the name of this juice is, even if it took me awhile to get it?
I am one of those weirdos who absolutely loves beets, but this was probably my least favourite juice of the cleanse. I know that beet juice is super good for you, but I just couldn’t get on board. Maybe my tastebuds were attuned to the sweet after my previous few juices? Maybe it was because I drank it during that dreaded late afternoon slump? I also drank it about an hour and a half later than the suggested time, so maybe that was a part of it? I’m not sure, but I just knew I couldn’t wait to be done with it.

5:30 pm – “The Popeye”
Spinach, Cucumber, Apple, Pear, Lemon

To be honest, I barely remember drinking this juice. I got home late from work because I had to run a few errands and I downed this guy while meal-prepping. I don’t remember anything distasteful about it and I do remember the cucumber taste being prominent. If you are looking for a standard juice to get a lot of nutrients in for very little work, I think this would do the trick.

9:00 pm – “Wonderwoman”
Watermelon, Pineapple, Coconut Water, Lime, Mint

Like the “Heart Beet”, I drank this juice waaaaay too late (the barre class! I have explained!) but unlike the “Heart Beet”, I loved it! It was like dessert! And it was brilliant, because the coconut water was the perfect thing to restore my water and electrolyte levels after the workout.

Final Thoughts?
I would absolutely do a one day cleanse again. I felt virtuous, I felt energetic, I was proud of myself. I also would probably have a cup of tea in the morning to stave off the headache.

The main difference I felt between the Cru Cleanse and this one, was the lack of a nut mylk included in the cleanse. I usually had the nut mylk after a workout to get some protein/sugar in as a recovery and I may have needed that if I did a more vigorous barre workout or continued the cleanse for longer. Cherry Pit juices are also more pure fruit/veg blends with less additional spices to add flavour.

I will note that I felt awful for much of Tuesday (the day after the cleanse). I went for a walk at lunch and almost passed out. This could have been a cleanse response, but it also could have been because I took an Advil that morning and I very rarely take any type of medication. I think I will have to do another one day cleanse, maybe after Stampede, and see how I feel the day after for comparison.

I loved the price of the Cherry Pit cleanse, I loved that I could purchase a day of juice and still be within my grocery budget for the week with a little clever finagling.

Books Books Books!

How is it July already? How are we six months into 2016? Time goes by so much faster now than I remember it going when I was in university and though I think I’m okay with that, it definitely makes it easy for time to slip away from me. On the plus side, now that it’s beautiful out, I’m spending a lot of time sitting in the sun and reading books so I can’t really complain about how I’m spending the fast moving time.

How was that for a segue, yo? Without further ado, here are some books I read lately! (Three books, to be precise. That is why the blog post is named “Books Books Books”. Titles are cleverer when you explain them.)

light
All The Light We Cannot See
By: Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

I know, I’m incredibly behind the times on this one – I think it was first recommended to me on the day that we finished the barre challenge back at the beginning of the year – but I had to wait for it to come in from the library for my e-reader. (Which is absolutely the best way to read books, by the way… I never thought I would be on board with not having the physical book but I love only having to carry around one thing with me.) Anyway, the book finally came in and I absolutely understood why everyone raves about it. It is just so lyrically beautiful – yes, the story is engaging and I found myself constantly trying to puzzle out how the characters end up where they end up, but the thing that really makes this book shine is how Doerr describes the world around the characters and the big and small moments in their lives. All The Light We Cannot See is the furthest thing from fluff and it is definitely a book that you need to set aside some time to really lose yourself in, but it is so worth it.

bookthief
The Book Thief
By: Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I definitely get on thematic kicks while selecting books and apparently my kick right now is World War II books. I did not give myself enough time to read The Book Thief – I think I thought it would be lighter than it was and I only had it for three weeks from the library – and I really had to push through and stay up way too late on a Thursday night to finish reading it before it expired. I didn’t mind, though – even if I was a little red-eyed from staying up late and weeping at work the next day.

This book is definitely not light and you won’t like it if you don’t care for experimental fiction. Afterall, the book is narrated by Death and it is full of definitions and facts that enhance the atmosphere of the book but break up the narrative flow.

theroyalwe
The Royal We
By: Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.

Now, this book was light and it was awesome. It’s by the Go Fug Yourself girls and, like every other review says, it’s basically Kate Middleton fanfiction. The main characters are pretty much exactly what you expect from a standard rom-com, the secondary characters are quirky and awesome (especially the Prince Harry-type character, “Freddie”) pretty much exactly as you expect from a rom-com but it’s all tied up in the “royal family” conceit and it does a pretty solid job of making you feel like you are sneaking a peek behind the scenes of real life. I banged it out in two sun-soaked afternoons and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Swine and Sow – Big Taste Calgary

Surprise! I actually have one last Big Taste Calgary review under my belt! I had thought I was done after Teatro (and my wallet was probably a little relieved, since even $35/meal adds up when you are a crazy person and do it upwards of five times)… but I had a surprise last minute invite pop up for Saturday night, so how could I say no? Girl’s gotta eat!

menu

My date selected Swine and Sow for our final dinner – in part because of the usual bonus of the Big Taste menu having a few options to select from and in part because we had never been there before and, with its location next to Theatre Junction Grand, we’ve always been curious. It was a good, good choice.

cocktails

We started our night with some delicious craft cocktails – the Basilisk (gin, elderflower liquor, basil and lime) and the Vegas Water (blueberry stoli, grapefruit and 7-up) since we’re always on the search for cocktails we can re-create at home. I’ve been a huge gin fan since I was 19 and mixing it with cream soda like only a dumb new drinker can, so I was obviously partial to the Basilisk. As we sipped our cocktails, we perused the full menu and excitedly made plans to return in the future for charcuterie and bacon tacos – but tonight? We were ordering and sharing literally everything from the Big Taste Menu.

first course

For our first course, we shared a Forest salad and risotto croquettes. The salad was fine (actually, I’m sure it was very good, I love mushrooms and it was probably wise to get some vegetables into our systems) but those croquettes… they knocked the memory of any other foods right out of my mind. They were so so good. They’re also kicking around on the regular menu and you better bet I tucked that information away for the future…

second course

Can we talk about how much food we got for the second course!? That lovely photo right there shows two racks of cherry wood smoked ribs and a phyllo-wrapped steelhead trout. Delicious, sizable and easily shareable. I preferred the trout to the ribs, but I’ve never really been a fan of food that requires lots of work for very little pay-off so I may be a biased party. (You know… Ribs, wings, bone-in meat… so much work for so little protein!)

third course

I was most excited for the dessert – a sticky toffee pudding and a Fiasco Gelato ice cream sandwich… and it was the Mini-egg gelato! March is totally my month! We initially had plans to share both desserts and, yes, we did each take a bite of both, but once that ice cream sandwich hit the table, there was no way I was sharing. Thank goodness my date preferred the sticky toffee pudding!

During our dinner, we noticed that there was a super large party downstairs (it sounded like a birthday party) and the staff was doing such a great job of keeping on top of it. We noted that our order was in just behind theirs but we never felt like we waiting for our next course and watching the Big Taste plates file past us to downstairs just got us more excited for our next course. I have to give the team at Swine and Sow big props for that and we will definitely be back.

ice cream sandwich

I’m in the midst of developing a new series for the blog, now that Big Taste is over, so check back next week for that and in the meantime have an amazing long weekend! I am looking forward to both catching up on sleep and dressing up to go out drinking/dancing with Claire on Saturday… best weekend ever!

Teatro – Big Taste Calgary

I’ll be the first to admit it, I’ve been pretty glowing in my reviews of the Big Taste restaurants that I’ve gone to. Part of that is because I chose my restaurants pretty carefully, part of that is because I just wouldn’t post about an experience that I didn’t like. I would like this blog to be a positive place for all the exciting/fun/interesting things I do in my life. And also for nonsense. Obviously. All that aside, Teatro really was a highlight of the week – of the year, more likely.

My date for Teatro was my most high-powered, fancy, successful friend who is probably also the smartest person I know – and I neglected to ask her if I could feature her on the blog, so I won’t be calling her by name. She has had a few disappointing Big Taste experiences this year, so we decided to really go for broke, treat ourselves and choose the Gourmet menu. It was the best choice we could have made – everything was delicious, everything was perfectly proportioned to allow us to end the night satisfied but not full, and the service was impeccable. The pacing of the courses was completely on point, our server was so patient when we got busy talking instead of ordering, and she gave incredible recommendations. Teatro may be pricey, but they without a doubt deserve it.

Teatro Cocktails
Our Teatro date was on a Thursday night and, since we both had to work the next day, we declined to go for the wine pairings. (Though, they were exceedingly reasonable at only $30 added to pair wine with five different courses.) We started our night with a cocktail – my date selected the always fabulous Kir Royale while I ordered something delicious with gin that I totally forgot to record the name of. C’est la vie.

Teatro Insalata
First course – the Winter Lyonnaise Insalata which was the perfect start to our night. How can you ever go wrong with a poached egg? Or pancetta? I suspect this was a smaller portion that you would normally get when you order ala carte but, with five courses to follow, it was perfect.

Teatro Salt Cod Risotto
The second course – the pasta course – was the only one where my date and I deviated from ordering the same thing. She loved her dish, but I couldn’t resist the creamy draw of the Salt Cod risotto. I actually saw a gentleman at another table sending his risotto back and I cannot imagine how you could possibly do that – I loved every bite of the mild flavours!

Teatro Eggplant
This Eggplant Parmigiana was actually the dish that tipped us over from getting the 3-course menu to the 5-course menu. Eggplant, tomatoes, cheese – and not just any cheese, but a fior di latte. Yum. This dish is on their regular menu as a Contorni (side dish) and I suspect I would order it again. Maybe just it and a cocktail before a show – is that weird? I’m okay with that…

Teatro Flat Iron Steak
Red meat twice in one week is not usually something that I rock – but when a prix fixe menu has a flat iron steak on it, you pick the flat iron steak. And look at that portion! (There are little potatoes hiding under the steak, but still. It’s a lot. And I didn’t even know that arugula puree was a thing that I loved, but it was definitely a thing that I loved.)

Teatro Panna Cotta
We finished our night with coffees and vanilla panna cotta. The panna cotta was light, the strawberry-rhubarb compote was appropriately tart – dessert was probably my least favourite dish, but it was still absolutely delicious… the rest of the dishes were just so elevated that this was the least of the best. And, honestly, after my week of dining, it was nice to have something light to finish off.

This review is much shorter and less rambly than my previous ones but I just don’t know if I have the words to approximately communicate how incredible the food and the experience really was. I can’t do Teatro all the time, but I am so glad I did it this time and that we went big. Thank you to the smartest person I know for helping me make a smart dining choice and for staying out way too late on a Thursday night, talking life and catching up.

Murietta’s – Big Taste Calgary

In my “About” page, I wrote about how this blog wouldn’t at all be aspirational because, let’s face it, I’m no Cup of Jo or Cupcakes and Cashmere. I don’t live in a major city that people dream of moving to and I certainly don’t have a book deal. I don’t even have a DSLR camera! That being said, my blog so far has mostly been fitness classes, wine tastings and nice dinners out, soooo…

Here’s some real life for you.

Today, I went to grab an English muffin from the fridge (because I am super not a morning person so I have to plan one breakfast for the entire week that I can make in approximately 2.65 minutes). The English muffins were moldy! I only bought them on Saturday! Ugh, what do you even do in that situation? Do I return them? (No, I threw them out when I got home from work.)

Anyway, I am not capable of coming up with a new breakfast plan that I can make in 2.65 minutes on the fly, so I grabbed a McDonald’s coupon out of the recycling bin. Classic money-saving! I probably just should have leaned into the fact that I was doing the McDonald’s thing and gotten something greasy-slash-delicious but I have recently designed the flimsiest of plans which involves a health component so I got the kale feta More-ning wrap. It was okay. The kale was a weird component, I think it was only there to sound fancy. Eh. What can you expect from McDonald’s?

I still have three Big Taste restaurants to talk about (I know, I said two, but if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I had a surprise dinner out on Saturday as well), so let’s dive into it. Last Wednesday, I spent a lovely evening at Murietta’s Bar and Grill with my very oldest friend, Lynn. (We’ve been kicking it together since junior high school – over 17 years ago now. How old does that make me feel!?)

I’ve been to Murietta’s a few times in the past after other events to take in some live music, so I knew they had a great cocktail list, but I’ve never done food there before. I also didn’t realize that they had a spacious dining room off to the side and just set slightly away from the live music so you can easily chat with your dining companions. Since this was my first time seeing Lynn since her honeymoon in Japan-New Zealand-Australia-etc and my recent change in my living situation, we had a lot to chat about and took about an hour per course!

We specifically chose Murietta’s because it offered options on the menu and, of course, we made a real effort to try all the different things.

Salad

Soup

Course One offered a choice between a garden salad with lemon balsamic dressing or a seasonal soup (in this case a perfectly light tomato-based vegetable soup with lentils). Lynn was kind enough to allow me to take a picture of her salad – we were shocked by how big it was! Generally speaking, Big Taste portions are a little smaller than normal due to the great deal you get on the menu but that was definitely not the case at Murietta’s.

short rib

For Course Two, I selected the Braised Short Rib and Pork Cheek Duo. I do love short rib, like any good resident of Alberta, but I don’t often think to order it so this opportunity was perfect. I’ve never had Pork Cheek before – it was a little rich for me – but the short rib was a perfect compliment to it and I just alternated between the two proteins. Also, there were beets. You can never go wrong with beets. (I paired my dinner with a Mirassou Pinot Grigio with the soup and then the Pinot Noir with the entrée. I am excellent at pairing, apparently.)

Dessert
And, finally, we both wrapped with the Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake with bananas flambé. How can you not!? It was rich, moist and, even though it looks small when plated, it was almost too big to finish. (Actually, I think I finally did have to tap out and just eat the bananas off the second half of my dessert leaving the cake behind.) Of course, we were so busy chatting once again that the waitress was worried we didn’t like it… I promise, we did!

I love the ambiance of the bar side of Murietta’s so much that I suspect that’s where I will be returning to in the future… but I certainly wouldn’t mind a classy little dinner in the dining room first!

Anejo – Big Taste Calgary

Tuesday night, for Big Taste, I hit up Anejo with one of my most favourite friends, Claire. (Yes, of the fun and less-than-professional tasting event post. This time I took pictures!) Anejo is a trendy Mexican eatery on 4th Street, with a menu featuring tableside guacamole, 200+ tequilas and our city’s most innovative margarita flavours.

4th Street means parallel parking and, since I spent most of my 20s hanging out in theatre and railyards, I don’t have a lot of experience doing the parallel parking thing and am subsequently less-than-skilled at it. After looping around the side streets around Anejo, looking for the perfect spot, I arrived about five minutes late for our 7:30 reservation and was immediately informed by the server that tonight Claire and I were only drinking tequila. So I immediately ordered an Anejo size chili coconut margarita. Happy Tuesday!

Margarita
(Only order this margarita if you can handle your heat – I loved it, but it involves habanero so there is definitely some kick to it.)

We were sorely tempted by the tableside gauc, but decided to stick to our guns and go with the Big Taste menu. With three choices for the first two courses and two choices for our dessert, it offered lots of options of its own!

Note that Anejo has a great, fun atmosphere – slightly dim lighting, tables of differing sizes and configurations so everyone has a great view of the scene, and while we were there, they were projecting “Blazing Saddles” onto the wall over the bar. This atmosphere is a little dim to be taking pictures in, though, unless you want to rock a flash so I only have pictures of my own selections.

Tartare Taco
For my first course, I was all over the steak tartar taco in a crispy wonton shell. This isn’t something I would normally order as an appie at Anejo because I just don’t know if I can do tacos on tacos on tacos, but with just a single one offered as a first course on Big Taste, I was all in. It was tender, a little bit spicy and paired well with that crispy wonton shell. Claire also had no complaints about her salmon ceviche, which seemed equally delicious and maybe a little bit more fun to eat.

Enchilada
I wish Max Fuller’s catchphrase on Fuller House was “Holy enchilada!” instead of “Holy chalupa!” so I could make a somewhat topical cultural reference. (Instead I just wrote an awkward lengthy sentence.) But seriously, holy geez! Look at the size of that enchilada! It took some serious girding my loins and double-down to get through even half of the deliciousness. The enchiladas were stuffed with adobo pork and potatoes, topped with a restrained amount of cheese and a spicy red sauce. “Hot” was the theme of the night, apparently! (Though what else can you expect at a Mexican restaurant?)

Claire partook in the mole chicken and devoured every bite – other than her carrots, which are one of her least favourite vegetables and which the server totally teased her for in the most charming way.

Fiasco Gelato
Dessert! (And a dessert margarita – we both chose to go for fruit-based margaritas to wrap up our experience since they are more like dessert. I had a strawberry rhubarb marg which did have a nice tang to it.) Anejo has about a thousand Fiasco Gelato flavours on their menu, so the server brought us over an entire little printed list to choose from.

I went for the Salted Caramel, Lavender Vanilla Bean and my absolutely favourite flavor… Mini Egg! Hello Spring Collection!

I don’t remember what Claire had, I was too excited about my own ice cream. I think I remember a Pear Riesling, that I may be all over next time, though.

We’re already making plans to come back on a Saturday and see what the vibe is like then – another successful Big Taste outing! Three down, two to go…