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Alberta's Top Foodies Dish Over Our Culinary Capitals

Copyright (c) 2006-2021 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved
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Their books are not your typical Alberta guidebooks, littered with service details and predictable scenic drives through Banff National Park. Both their books do indeed cover roadtrips but the scenery tends to focus on groaning boards around the province. However, this specific report zooms in on big cities – exactly what we had in mind when I joined Judy Schultz and Mary Bailey at an uptown diner where I asked them to dish about the food scene in Edmonton and Calgary.

Two of the province's most passionate and knowledgeable food aficionadas, this duo is committed to encouraging Albertans to replace our fast food, franchise eatery habit with an eating adventure that veers way beyond-the-box noshing.

They've recently followed up their best-seller, The Food Lover's Guide Trail Guide to Alberta with Volume Two, which adds to, and cross-references, the information in the first book. Loaded with scenic drives that highlight eateries on various roads across Alberta, consider this an abridged version, a map or menu for foodies.


Beyond Banff's Scenic Drives

"Calgary's into trendy, fun bistro dining where young professionals on expense accounts meet for drinks and move on to dinner," observes Mary, a certified wine educator and publisher of Edmonton's City Palate. Think chic, eclectic eateries like Divino and Living Room (403-228-9830).

"In Edmonton, ethnic eating is hot," says Judy, a nationally recognized food and travel writer and author of seven books. "Little India, Little Italy, Chinatown – where Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian restaurants and food shops congregate along 97th Street – these neighbourhoods define our multi-ethnic culture." Make a voyage of discovery to the Lahore Sweet House (780-435-9419), Santo's Pizza and Steak (780- 421-1507) and the Hong Kong Bakery.

"People get excited about restaurants in Calgary," says Mary. "There's an air of celebrity about a new place. And people tend to splurge – Calgary sells more wine than Edmonton."

"The amazing thing about Edmonton," says Judy, "is that you can get a top-dollar, exquisite meal, as good as any Calgary has to offer, for 30 per cent less." (And that's at an establishment like the Hardware Grill or Jack's Grill but keep it a secret, okay? Or none of us will ever get reservations!)


Corners with Cachet, Streets with Savoir Faire

The ladies agree that the scenes in both cities share a lot of common ground – case in point, those streets or corners where marvellous menus and fine food shops seem to cluster. Take the renaissance blooming in Edmonton's 124th Street area – new restaurants (too new to make it into Volume Two) Matahari (780-452-8262), the Glenora Grill (780-482-3531) and Mangiamo's join perennial favourites Café de Ville and the Urban Diner (780-488-7274). Whyte Avenue's poppin' with one-of-a-kinds like Flavours Modern Bistro (780-439-9604) and Packrat Louie. For bars that serve up groovy ambience with good food, try Sapphire (780-437-0231) and Savoy (780-438-0373).

Along Calgary's Kensington Road – a scenic drive in itself – pick up the essentials for a gourmet picnic at Janice Beaton Fine Cheese, the Kensington Wine Market and Muse Bakery (403-670-6873). Then there's "the whole 9th Avenue SE thing – a great place for a weekend walkabout," says Mary. Check out Sugo, Village Cantina, Spolumbo's, and Rouge.


Afters

We've finished lunch. Over coffee, Judy and Mary get down to the core of the matter. Yes, Calgary may be closer to the Rockies and have more artisan bakeries than Edmonton but the capital claims more sushi restaurants – the real point is both cities are blessed with dedicated, talented purveyors of fine food in all its flavours who need and deserve our support.

If we want to nurture a vibrant food scene, they say, we can live up to our taste buds' potential and bypass the "salt-sweet-fat" sameness of the safe and predictable. We can start by seeking out an independent restaurant or food shops in our neighbourhood...and we can do it with a couple of great guides in hand.

Look for The Food Lover's Trail Guide to Alberta and The Food Lover's Trail Guide to Alberta, Volume Two in bookstores across Alberta.


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Copyright © 2006 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved

Travel Alberta is the destination marketing organization for the Province of Alberta. Guided by the Strategic Tourism Marketing Council, Travel Alberta is the steward for the effective delivery of tourism marketing programs. For information about our organization, please visit our Travel Alberta industry web site at http://www.travelalberta.com

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