Portfolio: Sample from T+E Magazine: Austin Issue (Oct. 2013)

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Portfolio: Sample from T+E Magazine: Austin Issue (Oct. 2013)

  1. 1. Calgary, Alberta: The Two Sides of Canada’s “Cowtown” Around the Globe Photos by Stacey McLeod
  2. 2. In many ways, Alberta, Canada is a lot like texas—so much so that it’s been referred to as the “Texas of the North.” Alberta’s traditionally known for beef, oil, conservative politics and serious cowboy culture and like Austin, Alberta’s urban hub, Calgary, is going through a growth spurt: fuelling a crafty culinary scene, reeling in new residents from across the country and making all of Canada jealous with its current mayor and social media star, Naheed Nenshi. Calgary sits where the Canadian prairies meet the massive Rocky Mountains, teasing the city from the horizon. The clash of landscapes results in big Alberta skies, sparkling clear blue rivers, unpredictable Chinook winds and all kinds of outdoor adventures. And while the Rockies may seem far away, they can actually be explored on short day trips from the city. Winter sports fanatics have long flocked to nearby Banff and Lake Louise, but aside from hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics, Calgary’s mostly been pigeonholed as just another Canadian city. And, those who do travel here each year have often come for one big reason: the Calgary Stampede. For two weeks in July, Calgary’s Stampede Park morphs into a sea of white cowboy hats and horse trailers for the annual rodeo show, with its tagline “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” But when Stampede packs up and the hats come off (which they always do, as it’s rare to see them outside of Stampede season), Calgary’s sophisticated urban side reappears, with booming nightlife and arts and culture scenes, and refined restaurants focused on fresh, local ingredients. Here’s a look at both sides of Calgary.
  3. 3. Cowtown For more than a century, the Calgary Stampede has drawn big crowds to Calgary, and continues to envelop the city in western wear and weekday hangovers. (It’s basically 10 days of partying.) In fact, Stampede spirit is so strong here that when it’s happening, arriving at business meetings in a suit and tie is a big faux pas. Cowboy hats, boots, casual jeans and long-sleeved western shirts become the unofficial Calgary uniform, and people wear their hats everywhere, from corner stores to fine dining restaurants. You’ll find the real cowboys and cowgirls over at Stampede Park’s daily rodeos and races, standing proper in crisp button-up shirts, hats and big belt buckles (the real sign of a rodeo cowboy). And after hot days of Midway excesses, the park’s tents explode into rowdy parties for long nights of beer drinking and line dancing. The Food: Buckets of sugarcoated mini donuts are a must-have (more than two million are consumed each year), along with strange fried food combos (including delicious deep-fried Oreo cookies). For a more luxe experience, score seats in Ranahan’s or the Lazy S Lounge for Grandstand dining with high-level views of the rodeo and races. Sip on Caesars (a real Canadian cocktail) spiked with beef jerky, and if you’re brave, attempt the massive Outlaw Burger ($60 CAD), a four-pound burger made with AAA Alberta beef and topped with eight slices of horseradish cheddar, 12 strips of bacon and more (but intended to feed up to six people). But the bravest of diners can head into town to Bottlescrew Bill’s and Buzzards’ annual Testicle Festival, where you can try prairie oysters (otherwise known as bull testicles) battered and fried or sautéed. Photos by Stacey McLeod
  4. 4. The Main Draw: The rodeo and chuckwagon races are Stampede’s main events. Daily adrenaline-inducing rodeos feature bull riding, saddle bronc, bareback, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and ladies barrel racing, as well as the fearless rodeo clowns, all leading up to the final weekend’s showdown. Every evening, the chuckwagon racers make their rounds, vying for major prize money (more than $1 million total) with the Showdown Sunday winner receiving a $100,000 CAD prize. The chuckwagon races are followed by a must-see 90-minute Grandstand variety show, backed by The Young Canadians, a troupe of musical kids that gives the cast of Glee a run for their money. This year’s TransAlta Grandstand Show featured the Atherton Twins (acrobats of Cirque du Soleil fame), Pole on Globes and the Alberta Ballet. As in Texas, a lot of things are bigger in Alberta – including the epic fireworks displays that end the night. The Parties: Sometimes described as “Oktoberfest with cowboys,” there’s no shortage of beer and rowdy parties under the Nashville North and Cowboys tents, or inside the jam-packed Cowboys casino and club located on the Stampede grounds but open year-round. For off-site parties, head to Ranchman’s Bar, but be prepared to go early or try your luck with the long lines. Many are turned away throughout the night. Ranchman’s front bar is where the wild drinking (and mechanical bull riding) happens, but there’s a big dance floor in the back with live country bands, and every so often, a sea of line dancing and two-stepping. (Everyone in Alberta seems to know the steps.) Photos by Stacey McLeod
  5. 5. Cosmopolitan Calgary Calgary’s potential as a travel destination can get overlooked by those heading out west to Vancouver or east to Toronto, or overshadowed by Stampede. But year-round, Calgary offers a home base for Rocky Mountain activities (easily accessible in a half- or full-day trip) and a more sophisticated urban break from Alberta’s big outdoors. In recent years, a hot job market has brought an influx of young professionals with money to burn and a taste for the finer things in life. Fittingly, Calgary’s high-end culinary scene is maturing, fostering a trend toward fine dining and homegrown talent, including the opening of a downtown culinary campus. The Food: Traditionally, Calgary has been associated with beef, but in recent years, restaurants have been looking to fresh and “slow” foods, using native ingredients like bison, elk, berries and heirloom vegetables. As Karen Anderson from Calgary Culinary Tours notes, “beef is an exotic import from Scotland that came to Alberta 140 years ago.” Calgary’s “slow food” movement is in full force, which encourages native Albertan ingredients and local suppliers. The Players: For a romantic outing, try River Café, a beautiful lodge-like restaurant tucked in Prince’s Island Park, and one of the city’s top culinary classics. More standards include award-winning restaurants like classic Rouge and the more modern Model Milk. Chef Michael Noble, the first Canadian to appear on the popular food show Iron Chef, has been making headlines with his restaurant NOtaBLE, where fresh and slow cuisine is cooked over a wood fire in an open kitchen. A hefty “gluten aware” menu offers alternative takes on dishes.
  6. 6. If you have a sweet-and-savoury tooth, try the signature Stilton cheesecake – you won’t regret it. Brigg’s Kitchen + Bar is new to the scene, with a menu headed by Chef Xavier Lecaze of Top Chef Canada fame. The menu’s full of slow-cooked, shareable and meaty dishes, including a rich lobster mac n’ cheese ($16) and the over-the-top 48-ounce Tomahawk rib-eye steak ($75), best served family-styles (the cut features all types of doneness, so it still works for groups with conflicting tastes). Or snack on fresh, sharable plates at Hotel Arts’ Raw Bar, where you can also lounge poolside. The Parties: Calgarians love to party, and massive downtown bars like Craft Beer offer serious tap options, while next door at The National there are big communal tables, games and the recent addition of bowling lanes. Midday cocktails around the Hotel Arts pool are always hot. (In more ways than one—there’s usually some eye candy.) For a more casual and local experience, try the low-key Ship & Anchor pub where locals from all walks congregate for cold pints, or the Hop in Brew Pub, a downtown hipster bar in an adorable house, with snug little rooms and local brews.
  7. 7. N E X T Tara’s Travels Table of Contents Image © Brigg’s Kitchen + Bar

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