Sunday, April 22, 2012

Binky has moved...

And is blogging again at

Please come and see me. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Milk Tiger Lounge, Calgary

Milk Tiger Lounge
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
I've found a new favorite bar. It got off to a shaky start, but the meatballs with spaghetti on a stick brought me back.

I love anything on a stick. They even serve cheese wrapped in ham on a stick. What's not to like? I *heart* this place.

I love the 2oz pours and the "stick to the classics cocktail list." I love the fact that there's a tag rather than a sign outside. The eclectic music that makes me dance like Snoopy (or for Andree to do the running man). The doorman was reading "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" tonight. They know what I drink (a perfect Manhattan, in case you didn't know) and they serve the best freakin' waffles in the world.

Yeah. Waffles. With chocolate or vanilla ice cream, and maple syrup.

So tonight, we went for dinner at the Canadian Danish Club. And I happened to mention the waffles. And there was an unspoken moment of affinity across the table. We were going to eat the herring, and the salmon, and the shrimp tower, and drink the Riesling, and go and have waffles. It passed in a moment, like when you know you're going to kiss, or push that friend off a cliff in case they rat you out for the bacchanal you just had.

There's a prize if you name the novel I'm referencing. It will involve waffles and a Manhattan at Milk Tiger Lounge.

Milk Tiger Lounge is at 1410 4th Street SW, Calgary. Call (403) 261-5009. It's open until 2am, Tuesday through Sunday (edit: I didn't know the days of the week. Never blog when you've just got home from this place). It tends not to get busy until 10.30pm, so it's a great place for an early drink if you like to hear your date speak. But nothing beats a midnight waffle.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sushi Man, Calgary

I'm still searching for truly sensational sushi in Calgary, but if my first visit is anything to go by, there might be some good stuff at Sushi Man.

I was in a noodle mood; feeling a bit peaky and not having been to the Farmer's Market for a while, I didn't have any stock at home, so couldn't make my own. I'd noticed this place a few times, and decided to give it a try.

The service was great; prompt and polite and the decor is much nicer than the outside suggests it's going to be. This looks like a real hole in the wall as you walk past, but actually it's quite fresh and Japanese modern inside.

The tempura shrimp (pictured) were light, not greasy at all, and if they didn't contain about a squillion calories, I'd eat them every time I visit. Even better was a steaming bowl of beef rib udon noodles, all slithery, slightly firm to the bite and with a savory, umami-rich broth. The beef ribs were a little tough, but the noodles and broth made up for it.

I wasn't really in a sushi mood, but tried a single scallop nigiri, which, while not the best I've ever had, was very fresh. The rice was especially good, slightly warm, moist and seasoned well. Possibly the best sushi rice I've had in Calgary.

It's on one of my many routes for the walk home, so early indications suggest that this could become a regular haunt.

Sushi Man is at Bromley Square, 1004 1 Street SW Calgary. Call 403 205-3232.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Punk Rock Bingo, Broken City, Calgary

If there's a better night out, and I don't just mean in Calgary, then I want to know about it. There's great salt and pepper wings, the rockingest DJs this side of your favourite scrut-bag nightclub

But as Steve, our host for the evening, says, this is not the kind of bingo you'd bring your grandma to.

With prize ranging from machetes to sex toys to tattooing at Bushido, it's enough to make your maiden aunt blush. From cries of "fuck yeah" as we get started (or whenever Steve feels like it) to a paddle to the ass for a erroneous call (a "bullshit bingo"), this is a decidedly R-rated night out.

But a belt for the RPS champion, great music and a general joy in perverting the usual bingo shenanigans, means that Punk Rock Bingo gets a thumbs up from me.

Improvements? I used to love the bingo calls when I went to the Mecca bingo with my nan. Clickety Click? Sixty Six. Dancing Queen? Seventeen. Let's punk rock them up a bit. Sham! 69. Two Fat Johnny Rottens? 22. Year Punk was born? 74.

As long as no-one start spitting, I'll keep going.

Punk Rock Bingo is at Broken City Calgary. 613 - 11th Ave. S.W. (403) 262-9976

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Manresa, Los Gatos, California

I'm a lazy blogger by nature. I lack discipline, and hence get around to writing about 5% of the food I eat. My laziness will bite me on the bum at times, and I realise that I haven't captured my thoughts about some sensational meal or other.

My 2006 trip to California is one of those trips I was really lazy about. My laziness is somewhat specific. I don't think anything of flying 9000km to eat dinner, I just rarely get around to writing about it. But in May 2006, I organised a trip around two meals at Manresa, in Los Gatos. One night a dinner for eight with some foodie friends from an online discussion forum, with poulet demi-deuil (chicken in half mourning, with truffles stuffed under the skin) as the centre-piece, and then a solo tasting menu the following night, just for me.

The trip, and meals, were sensational, marred only by the fact that my wardrobe smelled of cheese for the entire trip, as I'd smuggled two truckles of unpasturised Montgomery Cheddar into the country for some friends.

Manresa has gone from strength to strength since my last visits and I was excited to see what Chef Kinch was doing now. What would Two Michelin stars, a recent James Beard nomination for Best Chef: Pacific, and a mauling of Bobby Flay on Iron Chef have done to one of my favourite restaurants? Most excitingly, a partnership with Love Apple Farm means that diners get to eat the most amazing seasonal, mainly bio-dynamic vegetables.

The restaurant is tucked away in a little street in Los Gatos, and I was having massive shivers of excitement as we sat down to our glasses of champagne. Of course we were letting David cook for us, and we quickly decided to have both the premium wine tasting and the standard one. For comparative purposes. I will admit to some significant wine envy at Chris' "premium" pours, but it was great to contrast both selections. And the sommelier was kind enough to bring me a larger pour of one or two of the wines I especially loved.

The food was...unique and delicious and I lack the writing skills and superlatives to really do it all justice. We left, giddy and swinging jars of Pim's marmalade, which is available from the restaurant if the online shop has sold out.

Highlights for me? The parmesan churros (pictured), a signature dish, which seemed more refined than on my previous trip. The deep fried kale contrasted with the cheesy richness, and if you think there's anything more delicious than a deep-fried cheese flavoured doughnut, you'd better get along to Manresa. Because this is a meal that starts with amazing little nibbles like this, and the famous Arpege egg, and the olive madelines, and just keeps raising your taste buds a notch higher, a notch further into ecstasy, as the meal progresses.

Everything is finely balanced, beautiful and whacks a massive punch. I've had too many three star meals that are all about pretty refinement, and what differentiates Manresa is the all-out deliciousness of it all. One dish still stands out for me. Called "Tidal Pool", it takes abalone, sea urchin and slivers of foie gras, served in a dashi broth. Perfect balance, perfect broth and the foie/seafood mix was an inspired pairing.

Vegetables play a huge role in the Manresa experience, nowhere more so than a dish entitled "Into the Garden", a composed warm salad that Kinch wants to be "as if we had held a mirror up to the garden and it showed an edible reflection." The plate is beautiful, with shoots and flowers and a perfect piece of potato, with a "dirt" made of roasted chicory root and dried potato. Follow the hyperlink to read Chef Kinch on the evolution of the dish.

It's not all about the veggies though. Our centre-piece was lamb, served with ramps, that they kindly showed us before it was portioned out. To be honest, they could have just left it on the table, whole, and Chris and I would have happily carved. I am a huge fan of lamb and this was perfect, even though the proteins are slightly overshadowed by the vegetables at Manresa. We're still trying to work out how they kept it so rare while we ate the intervening courses (which included a sensational roast kid goat dish, with curds and whey), and did wonder if we'd been shown a stunt lamb. Or perhaps a lamb leg body double? If it was good enough for Julia Roberts on the Pretty Woman poster, it's good enough for me though...

Any wrong notes? Bananas for desert, which as we all know, need to be banished from our plates, but otherwise, a perfect meal. I need to make sure it's not three years before I go back. I am prone to hyperbole, but if there is a more enchanting restaurant in America, I want to go there next weekend.

Things went from the sublime to the ridiculous after dinner and we ended up drinking Kamikazes at Black Watch ($8 for a pint. Bit like drinking battery acid), dancing at Mountain Charlies (when did people stop dancing face to face?) and a three am raid on the mini bar in the Hotel Los Gatos (great, and they were very nice about the red wine stains).

I want to organise another trip to Manresa, perhaps in August. Who's in?

is at 320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, California. Call (408) 354-4330 for reservations.
Hotel Los Gatos is at 210 E Main St, Los Gatos, California. Call (408) 335-1700 for reservations.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Slanted Door, San Francisco

Slanted Door: Beef Pho
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
The Slanted good I went back the next day.

Vietnamese food is one of my favorites, and I was spoiled in both London and Sydney. San Franciscans are also spoiled, with this modern Vietnamese restaurant that showcases a lot of the very delicious artisan produce that California has to offer.

Originally opened in 1995, the Slanted Door moved from its original home on Valencia, to a spot inside the Ferry Building overlooking the beautiful SF Bay. The menu is extensive, with around ten different sections, from Raw Bar to Rice. The restaurant is expansive, but the bar area is a boon for single travellers looking for a place to park their derrieres.

I was spoiled for choice, so I started with a lillet blanc, while I decided what to eat. Everything seemed to be shouting out to me "pick me, pick me" and the only way I could have tasted everything I wanted, would have been to have had about 20 friends with me. So to begin, some wood oven roasted Manila clams with chilies and crispy pork belly, followed by some imperial rolls with shrimp and pork, and the most incredible dipping sauce and then some kick-ass shrimp with roasted pineapple and garlic (breaking my usual moratorium on sweet with savoury). Everything was sparklingly fresh, served with plenty of zip and incredibly well balanced. Apart from the huge amount I had ordered.

I still felt I hadn't done justice to the Slanted Door; I'd barely scratched the surface of the appetizers. So I went back for lunch the next day. The pho (pictured), came with a beautiful selection of fresh herbs, amazing, raw Prather Ranch beef and a deeply-flavoured broth. But this was firmly upstaged by the Vietnamese sausage with oysters. I love meat with oysters, and this was the best combination of the two I have ever eaten. Musky, spicy sausage patties, with a side of teeny little Kusshi oysters from BC (yay, go Canadia). The oysters had each been sprinkled with a little tobiko, a little chili, a little citrus and fish sauce. Nothing to overpower them, just a little decoration to help them stand up to the sausage.

If I hadn't eaten at Manresa two days before, it would have been the most delicious thing I'd eaten all year.

Slanted Door is at 1 Ferry Building, #3. Call 415 861 8032 for reservations.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Antony and the Johnsons and Fleur De Lys, San Francisco

Life Is Good
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
In spite of what the content on this blog may suggest, there’s something that I love even more than food. And that’s music. I just never get around to writing about music. That's about to change...

Tuesday night saw the real reason for my trip to San Francisco, the Antony and the Johnson’s gig at the Nob Hill Masonic Centre. It was all shaping up to be a perfect Binky evening, with dinner beforehand at Fleur De Lys, although I wasn’t looking forward to walking up California in those heels.

I’ve written before about how I think I am over fine dining, and then somewhere will be recommended and I go back, like a dog returning to its own vomit. As I get older (or is it wiser? I’m never sure) I become sure that life is about what’s true and pure and beautiful. I don’t find a lot of restaurants that are any of these things, but I keep finding music that highlights all of the fan-tab-u-lous things in life.

So Tuesday was a a night of two halves. First up, a meal that contained very little truth or beauty. Just perfectly fine ingredients with lots of fuss and zhuzh. The menu read very well, with lots of things I thought I might like to eat, but I’d been called “madam” twice within five minutes of arriving and was getting really pissed off. When did I tip? There was a time when “miss” and “madame” ran concurrently, one pulling in front of the other depending on how recently I’d had a facial. But I no longer ever get a “miss”. It’s madame all the way. Waiters of the world, if a single lady is…actually, forget the single and forget the age. Just call me miss.

First out, an amuse of chestnut mousse with a slightly suspicious texture and little flavour. My starter, a sort of mega-mix of a lot of signature dishes entitled "Symphony of...", had got me all excited, because I love eating a miniature of anything, but it was all so dull, so soulless, that the most exciting thing on the plate was the salad with a nice bitey dressing. The centerpiece, a fondant of choucroute with caviar was notable for being the only time I have seen a use for a single sprout leaf (as the receptacle for the caviar). It was like the Borrowers were at the pass, doing the garnishing. Then a quail, boned out and stuffed with ris de veau, spinach and pine nuts, which was just dull. A cheese plate followed. I was glad I hadn’t ordered a desert. The visual highlight of the evening was my friend’s lamb, two medallions, which were garnished with two tiny pearls of carrot. They reminded me of teenage breasts with very perky nipples.

Which gives me a suitable juncture to tell you about Antony Hegarty. Six foot five, identifies as transgendered, Antony has one of those voices that has everyone reaching for the superlatives. His is a queer voice, different, non-normative, that fills your soul and has you humming lyrics about cutting off your breasts.

Antony’s music is challenging; he celebrates the emotional and often physical violence of relationships with lyrics like “It’s true that I always wanted love to be hurtful. And it’s true I always wanted love to be filled with pain and bruises” (from The Cripple and the Starfish.). It’s transformative, alternately hopeful and hopeless and about the flux of life “Still have too many dreams. Never seen the light. I need another world. A place where I can go.”(from Another World). It’s ambiguous; one minute he talks about being a girl, a sister and at other times he is a boy. It’s never clear if Antony is speaking about himself, a persona or perhaps even you. Judging by the crowd and the tears at the Nob Hill Masonic Centre, many people find their own truth in his music.

Given his roots in drag and performance art, it’s at first surprising to realise that he’s going to sit at his piano, with his chamber pop orchestra and sing. No visuals, just clever lighting that ebbs and flows along with the intensity of the music and the odd fluttering hand gesture. His voice is as powerful live as recorded, all the more astonishing for realizing that this glorious noise is coming from another human being. The set contained songs from all of his recordings, all subtly rearranged. So “Fistful of Love”, without the heating up from the scorching horns on the album version, is stripped down and more evidently about a lover celebrating his bruises. During tonight’s performance it was so tightly wound, without the release of the album version, like waiting for a punch to the face that doesn’t come. At the end I realized I had stopped breathing.

Antony has a unique way with covers, and while I don’t want him to become the new Cat Power, his version of Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” removes the sassy, splashy sounds (and Jay-Z, thank god) and concentrates on the “crazy” rather than the "in love". It’s twitchy, itchy and in spite of getting a laugh when he sings “got me hoping you’ll page me right now”, perfectly outlines his talent to find truth and beauty in the oddest of places.

The whole tour is sold out, so I can't tell you go and get tickets. You can listen to him sing Crazy in Love though

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bistro, Faena Hotel+Universe, Buenos Aires

The Faena's not just a hotel, it's an actual Universe, which made me all the more itchy to go. The entirety of space and time and a concierge? I wondered if they'd have a swim up bar with pockets of dark matter. What more could girl ask for?

Well, quite a lot, actually. I like a posh hotel as much as the next person (assuming that next person is not Paris Hilton) but the Faena just didn't do it for me. Designed by Phillipe Stark, you could be in any of his hotels, it's so identikit bonkers. Themed as a bordello, all red and black drapes, it is totally over the top and completely soulless.

We stopped for a drink in the bar before our dinner reservation, but the music was so loud and the lighting so low that we realised communication would be impossible, so we moved through to the restaurant. Having been greeted at the door by possibly the most beautiful woman I have ever seen (who job was simply to say hello as you walked into the restaurant), while wearing a floor length red ball gown and displaying skin like creme brulee, we entered Le Bistro. It's quite a shock, after all of that red and black and velvet drapery, to walk into a room that's almost entirely white. A bit like walking into a sanitarium.

The room has rows of unicorn heads with vivid red eyes stating down at you. Possibly the biggest floral display I have ever seen. White Louis XVI style chairs surround the tables, while white leather studded banquettes line the walls. It's truly breathtaking and truly awful.

The food? Everyone's had their panties in a bunch because the Chef used to work at El Bulli, and so there's going to be a lot of *technique*. This became apparent from our amuse bouche, a deconstructed tortilla, which had the texture of partially-hydrogenated liquid styrofoam and a slight flavour of potato. Tortilla is one of my favorite things. Such alchemy that something as simple as potato, eggs, onion, salt and oil can come together and be so delicious. Here, the chef may have the technology and the desire to innovate, but some things were perfect before you got your pacojet on them.

There were some good things; my white salmon was a fab bit of fish, and they have got their hands on some good ingredients. But someone really needs to issue a restaurant edict to stop Chefs striping their plates with sauces. Especially when those sauces are brown or black. Just not pretty.

The bill was, of course, astronomical. I don't believe that cost should ever be a measure when you're talking about food. Unless you're paying hundreds of dollars for food that simply doesn't have a soul.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Don't Cry for Me Argentina, Part Five

I wish I could say it was all plain sailing from then on.

Things seemed to be falling into place and the flight from Vancouver to LA was all on time and I had the good news that I was on standby for a business class upgrade to Washington. The room service club sandwich and half bottle of champagne that I toasted my (belated) birthday with were well deserved and the king size bed with six pillows and very, very soft, high thread-count sheets gave me the best nights sleep I think I’ve ever had.

A six am automated flight update message from United was the first indication that things might not run smoothly. We’d booked the flight with a five and half layover in Washington, because it was Christmas Eve and we were expecting delays. I truly never believed that there would be a chance I could miss the flight from Washington to Buenos Aires. But as United called every 15 minutes, adding an extra 30 minutes delay to my departure time from LAX, that five and a half window was disappearing. Eventually it happened. My flight was so delayed there was no way I could make the connecting flight.

I had my first gin and tonic at 12.04 and continued with an hourly topical application until I fell asleep. United put me on stand-by for another flight to Washington that wasn’t showing a delay and which would give me 25 minutes to get to the gate for the flight to BA. I was number two (of 28) on the standby list. The flight was showing 14 spare seats. Then 10. Then seven. And then two. Where it remained, for the next 30 minutes as I obliterated my manicure. They asked if any passengers might like compensation to take a later flight. Each area boarded. They closed the flight. I was still standing at the gate, like the runt of the litter waiting to be picked. Finally; “Will passengers Goncalves and Edwards please come to the podium.” They shut the door after me and started to taxi a picosecond later.

I’m still trying to work out what the lesson of all of this is. At first I was saying that the universe didn’t want me to go to Buenos Aires; that it was keeping me away for a reason. That something bad would happen if I went. I have never been as nervous as I was when waiting for that standby flight to Washington, and this is from a woman who can be as neurotic as a champion Weimaramer on the morning of Crufts. The hope that I felt when I thought I saw my passport in a snowdrift outside of the office was overwhelming, as was the disappointment when it turned out it was a piece of ice.

I called a friend for some advice and talked through the Universe is against me theory. He asked if perhaps the Universe wasn’t just throwing some challenges for me to sashay over, which I thought was a superb way of looking at it. I don’t want to end this with some sort of “Little House on the Prairie” homily, but the whole thing has changed my world view. Now, can you go and check that you know where your passport is?

Normal food blogging service will resume shortly.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Don't Cry for Me Argentina, Part Four

There were many people who wouldn’t usually take a Greyhound at the bus station. The canceled flights meant that a lot of people, who would prefer not to be stranded in Calgary for Christmas, were seeking alternative means of transportation.

You could see who had taken the bus before. They had bags of food, blankets, many layers of warm clothing and pillows. Me? A tube of Nicorette lozenges and my iPod. You see, I’d been hoodwinked by the Greyhound website, with its talk of reclining seats, heating, entertainment and refreshments.

What followed was the most uncomfortable 16.5 hours of my life. The coach alternated between freezing cold and the burning pit of Gehenna. My seat didn’t recline properly, or much at all to be honest, and there was no entertainment other than the stories of the woman in front of me, who was travelling from Winnipeg to Vancouver, on the Greyhound, entirely of her own volition. For the second time this year. I finally managed to fall asleep, but was shaken ruthlessly awake at Kamloops because we had to change coaches. Finally, I knew what it felt like to be a veal calf in the 1980s, being crated across Europe. Although I am not sure a veal calf was ever as depressed as I was as I realized the new coach had no heating at all and was being warmed by the slowly condensing breath of my fellow passengers.

There was quite a lot of grumbling. People had already been questioning how they were going to match us with our luggage, as there appeared to be little organisation about which of the two coaches making the journey we were on, and which our belongings. For those people used to airtravel, the lack of any sort of automated luggage tracking system (or in my case, the actual lack of an official tag, other than one the security guy made with my name and final destination on it) was an especial concern.

So you probably won’t be surprised to read that when I arrived in Vancouver, two and a half hours later than expected and with a window of an hour to get to the Consulate, I discovered that my luggage was missing.

The Greyhound employees couldn’t have been less helpful. They had no idea when my luggage might arrive, because they didn’t actually know where it was. They thought it might be on the other even more delayed coach, which they thought might get to Vancouver in the next hour or so. They weren’t sure. I tried to explain my situation to a teenager with a singularly bored expression than can only come from being terminally moronic, who just shrugged. If I were to go to the consulate and my luggage did arrive, they would take no responsibility for it and it would be just left out at the station.

I eventually found a Greyhound employee who was willing to take responsibility and if my luggage was on the coach, keep it in their office until I got back. So off I went to the consulate to get my passport. They were the epitome of British steadfastness in the face of adversity and I had my temporary passport in 90 minutes.

When I got back to the Greyhound bus station, they insisted on seeing some ID before they would release my luggage to me. I smiled as I produced my passport from my handbag.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Don't Cry For Me Argentina, Part Three

The British High Commission in Ottawa couldn’t help. Can’t remember why now. A couple too many G&Ts and a bottle of Ridge Chardonnay with my mussels had left me with Monday morning fuzzy head. They suggested I call the British Consulate in Vancouver.

Gillian answered. “Just need to take a few details from you. Full name? Date of birth? We can issue emergency documents under exceptional circumstances. Let me call you back shortly.” 84 minutes later she called with the good news. They would be willing to grant me a passport. All I needed to do was get to the consulate the next day and I would be able to travel.

One small problem. The consulate is in Vancouver. That’s OK, I can fly there. Pause for realization. Not without a passport I can’t. And being a non-driving type, I don’t have any other form of picture ID that would allow me to board a plane. I don’t even have two forms of government issued ID without pictures that would allow me to travel.

I am about to type something that people who know me very well won’t be able to believe. I checked out the Greyhound bus schedule. The idea of Suzi on public transport is a little…unusual. In truth, I had managed to live in Calgary since August and had taken the bus for the very first time on Friday. The day I probably lost my passport. I don’t wish to sound sensationalist, but bad things happen when you take the bus. More on this later.

I've been told the flight from Calgary to Vancouver takes 54 minutes. The journey time by bus? 15 hours. There was just one seat left on the 6.30pm bus. Dear reader, I booked it. It would get me into Vancouver at 8.30am, allowing me to pick up my passport and then fly at 6pm from Vancouver to LA. Overnight in LA and then, on Christmas Eve, LA to Buenos Aires with a five and half hour gap in Washington to make the connecting flight.

Of course I had to try a little Plan B in the middle of it. I gathered together a dossier designed to convince an airline employee to allow me to fly. It contains my completed passport application, my work permit, my Australian Medicare card, my police report about the loss of my passport, an old expired passport that I found in a drawer (why I brought that with me to Canada and not my birth certificate, I’ll never know), photocopy of the photo page of my lost passport and a letter from my junior school headmaster saying I was morally upstanding. I was probably pushing it with the Medicare card but it was the only other government issued ID I could find. Man, I’m basically living off the grid.

Vancouver had 30cms of snow on Sunday 21st December. People kept talking about this like it was somehow significant. I just kept thinking “Erm, hello? This is Canada. We appear to be at the start of the next Ice Age so stop your whinging and warm my feet”. What this meant though, was that some flights got canceled. Now if the UK had 30cms of snow, the country would grind to a halt and we’d all kill and panic eat our neighbours. In Canada, a few flights got canceled and people talked even more about how lucky we were that it was a dry cold in Calgary. Not that wet cold snow they’re having in Vancouver. Oh no. Let’s pause for a second and count our blessings.

Of course the airport was like Picasso’s slightly over-wrought early attempts at Guernica and after an hour in line I was told that there were no seats left on flights to Vancouver. Not even if I told them that it was my birthday today.

When I said that bad things happen on buses, I was being serious. A man was recently stabbed to death, beheaded and parts of him eaten on a Greyhound bus from Edmonton to Manitoba. The killer was found with a ziplock bag of bits including an ear. You know, a little something for later. I would soon come to understand the significance of this detail.

That said, the Greyhound website made the whole thing sound like a real adventure. They show movies, make a big deal of the reclining seats and serve refreshments. I thought it might be quite romantic and was just wishing that I could journey through the day because I knew the scenery was going to be outstanding.

Then I arrived at the Greyhound station and the realization hit me. It was going to be a very long journey.

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Don't Cry for Me Argentina, Part Two.

Pedro in a snowdrift
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
So what constitutes an emergency? This was a question I asked myself as I perused the Foreign and Commonwealth website. It transpires that you can get emergency travel documents, only not on the weekend and only in extreme circumstances. I’d already cancelled my flights, because if I hadn’t, I would have forfeited most of the cost. So I no longer had any travel plans. Would the fact that I didn’t want to leave my brother alone in Buenos Aires for Christmas be a good enough excuse?

To be truthful, I gave up on the trip. The universe was clearly telling me *something*. I am not the kind of person who misses flights. I’m not even the kind of person who loses their passport. I am clumsy, prone to hyperbole, and kinda accident prone. Funny things happen to me. Especially since I moved to Calgary. I’ve been punched in the face as I walked down the street, scalded my face with a blender full of roasted tomato soup, been threatened with arrest for jaywalking and caused the evacuation of my entire building by accidentally setting off the fire alarm while making out in the lobby. At midnight. On a Sunday.

But back to the universe. Something odd was going on and I was at the point where I figured I wasn’t meant to go to Buenos Aires and, in the words of a friend, “something wonderful would happen to me if I stayed home.” So I made a shopping list for Christmas alone in Calgary

1. Food. My fridge was empty save a hunk of parmesan, a slab of coke zero, salted fermented black beans and some sambal oelek. I’d ran everything down in preparation for the trip and was basically left with condiments.
2. Alcohol. Sometimes it’s a bit frightening to calculate how much alcohol you conservatively reckon you’ll need for a week. Perhaps I am a high functioning alcoholic afterall. As I do my recycling, I’ve become accustomed to telling myself that I’ve had lots of people over to socialise.
3. Christmas decorations. Pedro just wasn’t cutting it on the balcony and I was starting to wonder if the Werepenguin wasn’t the cause of all this oddness.
4. Movies. I’ve always wanted to see “Elf” and I figured this was as good a time as any. And wasn’t Mamma Mia just out on DVD?
5. Cyanide pill. You know, just in case.

I cried a lot on Sunday. Then I pulled myself together, made some moules marinieres and had far too much to drink.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Don't Cry For Me Argentina, Part One.

So I missed my flight to Buenos Aires.


My brain’s up my bum at the moment, hence the first missed flight. I was sure I was flying on Friday and in spite of checking the itinerary twelve hundred times, well, needless to say I was flying on Thursday. The penny only dropped when I was on the phone to United, having attempted to check in online for a flight I had missed. I was about to get a bit snippy with the customer services executive as she asked me “why are you in Calgary?” for the fifth time and was resisting the urge to respond “because I did something terrible in a former life and am forced to pay for my sins by living on the ice planet of Hoth for a while”, when I realized what day it was.

Luckily I was rebooked, for Sunday, which was great because it meant that I was able to do all of the stuff I hadn’t got round to doing to prepare for the trip. Like pack. Get my inoculations. Do some Christmas shopping. Buy some summer clothes, because all of mine are in Sydney.

Of course it’s impossible to buy summer clothes in Calgary in December. It has been -35 for over a week now, a hitherto unknown temperature for me (and judging by the way that life in Calgary has crawled to a halt, an unknown temperature for it too. I had worked on the assumption that Calgary would continue to function in the cold, what with it being like Narnia here for about six months of the year, but all of the cab companies have just switched their lines to engaged and it’s impossible to get anywhere). I made the mistake of saying that cold all feels the same once you’re past minus seven, but once you’ve attempted to walk the six blocks to the office in -35, you feel like a fool for saying that. Your nostrils stick together. The air is knocked from your lungs. If you don’t have a wee before leaving, it freezes in your bladder.

And if I hear one more person tell me “but it’s a dry cold”, I will stab them through the heart with an icicle.

So I hired a cab driver for the day and went off to do my shopping. It was while I was purchasing some swimwear (at Commitments Lingerie in Dalhousie. I highly recommend them) that I realized my passport wasn’t in my bag but my work permit was. At this point I wished my wee had frozen in my bladder, because this was a disaster.

Is this the right time to mention I decided to give up smoking last week? After twenty years on the evil weed, I had decided enough was enough and wanted to use the trip as a chance to break my habit. Do you have any idea how much you want a cigarette when you think you’ve lost your passport? I was like some two dollar crack-whore, jonesing for a smoke, clawing at the cab windows as we drove back downtown.

My brain was telling me I must have left it in the office, when I was photocopying it for my friends’ PR application. Or it must be on the side at home. It cannot have just been whisked away by the Universe.

Of course it had.

It took me one online prayer to St Antony, two knots in hankies, three spirit guide messengers and four hours kicking through snow drifts and retracing all of my steps from the last time I saw it to realise that my passport was gone.

My passport. My most treasured possession. The thing that means I can split this joint with a second’s notice and go where my heart desires. This was really bad news.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Baba Ka Dhaba, Calgary

Baba Ka Dhaba
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
Plans had been afoot to eat at Baba Ka Dhaba for some time. Known as “the stand up” among my friends, I had been seduced with talk of totally delicious Indian food. It was reaching mythical status, and then everyone went into damage limitation mode, telling me to get drunk before I got there and to wear my oldest clothes.

A dhaba is a roadside restaurant throughout India and Pakistan. They are very popular with truck drivers, as they are often next to a petrol station. For British readers, this means you’re eating in the Indian equivalent of a “Happy Chef”, although pleasantly, the comparison stops there. The food served is often Punjabi, pretty spicy and with more of a homestyle feel that you’d get in a restaurant. If only the UK had roadside food as pungent and delicious as Baba Ka Dhaba. Perhaps I’d still be living there…

To continue the driving theme, Calgary’s Baba Ka Dhaba does look very similar to one of those illegal mini-cab offices you find in the east end of London. Not a lampshade in sight and it’s tiled, so you can either tell yourself it’s a bit like eating in a urinal, or that it’s really easy to hose down at the end of the night. To be honest though, this place probably hasn’t seen a good hosing down in a while.

The food, however, was glorious. Pillowy naan bread. Butter chicken in a sauce as silky as my underwear drawer. Chicken tikka, on the bone, all scrackly and charred from the oven. Pakora curry, a dish I had never heard of before, that was like eating the scrummiest dream you’ve ever had about your favourite person. Lamb chops and sheekh kebabs, be still my beating heart, that are better than Mirchi and rival those at Lahore Karahi in Tooting. We even got to go off-menu with goat hooves in a thin spicy gravy and some Nepalese fish, just flaking as you bite into the batter patina.

You’ll see my glamorous assistant Amit pointing out that the menu at Baba Ka Dhaba rotates through the week, so I can’t guarantee that what we had will be there when you go. In fact, I have an aloo naan winging its way to me as I type, as this is one of the Monday items.

Now, before you rush off there, remember that I don’t mind eating in a place that the interweb tells me has 16 health code violations. I cut some restaurants a lot of slack when it comes to things like this. Oddly enough, if I heard that a fine dining place was storing ice-cream on top of bones, then I’d be cautious. But this place is a hole in the wall and I’ve eaten pani puree on the streets of Bangalore, so I know I have a pretty cast iron stomach. What does make me weep though, is when people use the internet to complain that the chicken tikka wasn’t cooked properly and they got sick. Hello? If the chicken isn’t cooked properly, send it back, you cretin. Sometimes I find myself waiting for people to blossom from imbecile to idiot, and wondering why there isn’t some sort of test before people are allowed to post opinions on the web.

Baba Ka Dhaba is at 3504 17th Ave SE. You can call them on 403-207-5552.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mirchi, Calgary

Mirchi Kebabs
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
So what’s the restaurant that has been recommended to me the most in Calgary? Mirchi.

So of course I had to go.

This place is right next to the Safeway, and is almost a reason to shop here. Of course nothing is going to tempt me to frequent a supermarket that only seems to sell rotting vegetables, so until Mirchi opens a branch next to the Farmer’s Market, I can’t combine shopping for food to cook and a quick snack after.

Mirchi is a simple, no frills Pakistani/Indian café which has been open since 2007. We went on a cold, snowy Sunday night, because I’d heard the kebabs were amazing. I wasn’t disappointed. A lot of the food is served cafeteria style and we began by ordering at the counter, able to choose what looked most delicious.

I was with two people who like okra. They wanted it. Given I am in an “eat anything” kind of mood, I figured that now was a good time to see if my hatred of okra was ill-placed. Sorry to report that there will no further mentions of this evil vegetable on this blog for the foreseeable future. My fellow greedy weasels said that it was delicious though.

More interesting to me were the shish kebabs, all tender and moist, wrapped in some very good (although not perfect) naan with a really fresh salad. The salad in a lot of Indian/Pakistani restaurants can be a bit perfunctory, but as you can see from the picture, this is really pretty good. Chicken karahi came on the bone, lots of chunky pieces in a creamy, spicy sauce. With a couple of masala chai, this was a really, really good, very inexpensive meal.

Some chops were ordered as desert, when we saw a plate being delivered to the next table. The waiter thought we were joking though, and they never arrived. Luckily some friends brought some over a couple of nights later, and these are truly exceptional chops. The only tiny criticism I could make is that they might have been marinaded for a little too long, so the meat is very melting, lacking a little of the char and bite to the tooth from the best kebabs in the world (at Lahore Karahi in Tooting) But it is an exceptional marinade, so I may be being overly-critical.

All in all, this was a fantabulous meal, and a place that I am going to be visiting an awful lot.

Mirchi is at 101,825 - 12th Ave SW. Call 403 245-3663.

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