Tag Archives: Calgary

Best’s Dinner at Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro was the BEST!

Best’s Dinner at Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro was the BEST!

My dear friend and unofficially adopted daughter, Kajsa, who is a chef, caterer (Taylor Made Events Catering) and foodie extraordinaire, heard about an event that she invited me to attend with her this past Wednesday. I am SO glad she did and let me tell you why!

Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro, one of my favourite downtown restaurants and wine bars, conveniently located on Stephen Avenue, has been a Calgary favourite for over 15 years. It is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts‘ family of restaurants and offers a comfortable bistro atmosphere, excellent cuisine prepared under the direction of chef John Donovan, an award-winning international cheese selection, and a superb wine list.

Upstairs at Divino's (photo from Divino's website)

Upstairs at Divino’s (photo from Divino’s website)

The event that Kajsa invited me to was Best’s Great Western Wine Dinner, presented by Richmond Hill Wines, a specialty wine importer and wine shop located in south west Calgary (my former neighbourhood). As one of the oldest independent wine stores in Alberta, Richmond Hill Wines has a tremendous reputation for carrying great wines, especially those from Australia.

Best's Great Western Wines (photo from Best's)

Best’s Great Western Wines (photo from Best’s)

Wednesday night’s wine dinner featured the wines of Best’s Great Western from Victoria, Australia, and were presented by Jonathan Mogg, General Manager of Sales and Marketing from Best’s. This year, 2016, marks the 150th anniversary of one of Australia’s oldest family-owned wineries (the fifth generation of the Thomson family now runs the business) and oldest vines in the country. To commemorate this extraordinary milestone, Best’s is celebrating with various tastings and dinner events around Australia and North America, of which we were able to attend the special event hosted at Divino in Calgary.

Wine Director for the Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts and AIWS (Associate of the Institute of Wine and Spirits) Sommelier, Brad Royale, paired the food from Divino with an outstanding assortment of Best’s wines for our enjoyment. He supervised and orchestrated the entire evening’s event, introduced each dish as it was presented, and provided his own insightful tasting notes to highlight the food and wine that was served. Here was their outstanding menu and pairing:

Heirloom Tomatoes (with Fior di Latte, Baby Fall Greens, White Balsamic & Honey Vinaigrette) served with Best’s Great Western Reisling 2014

Duck Leg Confit

Duck Leg Confit

Rogue Farms Duck Leg Confit (with Poached Santa Rosa Plums) served with Best’s Great Western Ancient Vines Pinot Meunier 2010

Lamb Shank

Lamb Shank

Slow Braised Lamb Shank (with Potato Gnocchi, Braised Cipolini Onions) served with Best’s Thomson Family Shiraz 2012 and Best’s Great Western Chardonnay 2012

Cheese Cake

Cheese Cake

Cheese Cake (Thornloe Ontario Blue Cheese, Wild Saskatoon Berries) served with Best’s Great Western Sparking Shiraz Late Disgorged 2011

The food prepared by chef John Donovan and his team, the service, and the wine served throughout the evening, were nothing short of superb! I highly recommend Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro for a casual drink, lunch or dinner at any time, but particularly special events like this, Best’s 150th Anniversary Dinner.

My guy, Ron, and I have talked for a long time about attending the Australian Open, but Best’s have given me just one more brilliant reason to travel to Melbourne and explore the wines “down under”!  If you can’t get to Melbourne in the near future, I highly recommend that you check out the selection of Best’s Wines at Richmond Hill Wines. These wines really are some of the “best” Australia has to offer!

A View From “The Bow”

A View From “The Bow”

A panoramic view of downtown Calgary with "The Bow" prominently featured on the far left.

A panoramic view of downtown Calgary with The Bow prominently featured on the far left (the building with the diagonal exterior grid of cross-bracing)..

After talking about it for several years, my dear friend, Bettina, took me on a tour of the building she works in, The Bow. I shared some pictures of it in a previous post, but there is nothing like this skyscraper from the inside looking out.

Construction of this 58 floor, crescent-shaped skyscraper began in 2007 and was completed in 2012 – a billion dollars later.

It's a LONG way down!

It’s a LONG way down!

The design and architecture is absolutely stunning, with graceful rounded curves throughout the interior, incredible views, and beautiful, natural light flooding in through every window.

A view of some of the graceful lines and light.

A view of some of the graceful lines and light.

We picked up lunch at a favourite restaurant of Bettina’s, Chef’s Cafe, situated across the street from The Bow, then took it up to eat at the Sky Garden on the 54th floor to enjoy the view from a beautiful vantage point.

View looking over the Bow River.

View looking over the Bow River.

This magnificent structure literally “towers” over other buildings in downtown Calgary, and its exquisite design will remain a signature of one of the most dazzling corporate structures in Canada and perhaps the world. It has, without doubt, changed the skyline of Calgary with its semi-circular shape and clean, modern design.

A view from the top!

A view from the top (and looking at the new Brookfield Plaza which will be taller than The Bow upon completion – taller perhaps but definitely NOT as impressive)!

Thank you for taking the time, Bettina, to show me this brilliant structure and for introducing me to The Bow, from the inside looking out!

A Stampede Event to Remember!

A Stampede Event to Remember!

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The annual and very famous Calgary Stampede wrapped up a week ago tonight. Soggy weather, the worst I can ever remember, and a depressed economy put a “damper” on the event and reduced attendance significantly this year – the lowest in 22 years.

Calgary is a city that is filled with people from all over the world. I’ve always joked and said that I’ve one of the six people who were actually born here. The other five people get REALLY excited about Stampede and I have to admit that I’ve grown really complacent over the years. Working downtown during this event is VERY difficult: between people out for the traditional pancake breakfasts first thing in the morning, long lunches where people don’t come back to the office until the next day, country music everywhere, and basically being an impossible time to get work done if you need to rely on other people. I know, I know, I sound like a real party pooper, but I have to say that until this year, I’ve seen that, been there, and done that! The event that I’m about to tell you about turned all that around for me.

Through one of the companies that I consult for, several co-workers and I received an invitation to an event that really piqued my interest. The event was called a The Spaghetti Western Networking Breakfast 2016, the “Unfamished”, sponsored by Geologic Systems for a select group of their system users, and catered at a gorgeous venue on Prince’s Island called River CafĂ©. This restaurant has long been a favourite of mine in Calgary as they feature “the best tasting local ingredients in season” in a beautiful restaurant in an extraordinary setting.

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I have to be honest that it was the menu that captured my interest and inspired me to attend the event:

Fairwinds Farm Feta & Roast Tomato Frittata
Poplar Bluff Potato Rosti with Highwood Crossing Aioli
Croissant French Toast with Okanagan Cherries Bourbon Sabayon
Fresh Local Berries
Grilled Cheese with Maple Bacon Jam
Breakfast Flatbread with Wild Boar Bacon
Fior di Latte
Spragg’s Sausage
House Made Pastries with Saskatoon Berry Danish
Mountain Grana Scones
Gluten-Free Rhubarb White Chocolate Muffins
Highwood Crossing Shortbread Granola with Schipper’s Strawberries
Nino Franco Prosecco Island Fizz
Craft Cocktails
Iced Coffees
Rhubarb Lemonade

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We were all met on the way to the restaurant by a friendly and welcoming team of people from Geologic Systems, all dressed in their signature red shirts, who made everyone feel instantly comfortable and set the stage for a brilliant networking (and culinary!) event. We were blessed with beautiful weather that morning, so the event was inside the restaurant as well as flowing out to their gorgeous outdoor patio areas.

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Photo courtesy of Geologic Systems

Although there was a traditional buffet set up, most of us were engaged in conversations with industry peers and acquaintances, new and old, spread around the patio, being served bite-sized portions of the AMAZING food prepared and served by the professional and informative staff of River CafĂ©. The staff from Geologic Systems mingled with guests and everyone had, I believe, a great experience. THIS was the epitome of what a Stampede Breakfast should be – in every sense!

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Photo courtesy of Geologic Systems

Geologic Systems, “a Calgary-based company that offers a data browser and analytical tools bundled with current well data for all of western Canada”, showed tremendous class through the planning and execution of this event. In a time when most companies are cutting WAY back, they reached out to their client base and put on an incredibly successful networking event for them and showed them REAL appreciation for their business.

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I applaud Geologic Systems and their catering partner, River Café, for setting an absolute new and high standard of western hospitality and creating the ultimate Stampede breakfast! Kudos and congratulations to all!

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Honesty and Integrity

Honesty and Integrity

I’ve always said that there is no such thing as situational integrity; you either have integrity or you don’t…period. In just over a week, I’ve been touched by three examples of extraordinary honesty that left me feeling really good about people and humanity in general.

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Ron’s brother David recently rode up the Baja and then drove a car down from San Diego for us. Ron had given him two one hundred dollar bills to cover expenses. When he got to Cabo, he took the car to a local car wash for detailing. When David came back for the car, the young Mexican man he left the car with held out the money and said it must have fallen from David’s pocket as it was found between the seats. Amazing! I hope David gave this fellow a big tip for his honesty.

The next situation was in the little town that I grew up in. I had just returned from traveling outside the country and had stopped in to the registry office to pick up the 2017 registration sticker for my car. As always, the service was excellent: professional, courteous and thorough. I obtained my sticker after paying by credit card and was on my way.

My Mom and I had a few more stops to make in town and I went to pay for something, only to realize that the money I had taken out from the bank the day before (10 brand new $20 bills – ironically $200, just like David’s situation) was NOT in my wallet. I retraced my steps and immediately called the registry office to see, if by some small chance, it had fallen out there. When I identified the amount of money, the person who answered the phone said that Heather was in possession of the cash and to come by to pick it up. Of course I did so immediately, but I shook my head all day and couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to come into contact with such honest people who exhibited the greatest integrity. They exemplify what doing business in a small town should be all about and I’m very grateful to them.

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The third and final example was with an insurance broker in Calgary. My business partner and I took out life insurance back in 1995 to provide protection for one another in the event that something should happen to either one of us. She left the business in 1998 and I maintained a term life insurance policy ever since. My ten year term insurance recently came up for renewal and I was contacted by an associate of the firm I had dealt with since first taking out the policy. As I had been traveling out of the country, he asked that I come in to discuss my options with him in person as soon as I was back. Last night, we reviewed my financial affairs and, with total honesty and candor, Will told me that in all good conscience he would not recommend that I continue buying life insurance – I no longer needed it. He could have easily sold me more insurance, and I am grateful for the money he is saving me on an expense item I no longer require.

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I found all three of these people to be rare role models as they exhibited honesty and integrity that, unfortunately, is rare in this day and age. Their actions inspire me and give me the greatest feeling about the goodness of some people.

Synchronicity

Synchronicity

Yesterday, June 20, was the birthday of two beautiful young friends of mine who are both, ironically, named Crystal. Not a common name, and I only realized last year that they shared the same birthday. One of the definitions of the word “crystal” is glass of fine quality with a high degree of brilliance. Change the word “glass” to “woman” and it perfectly defines both of these amazing ladies.

Crystal #1 is a brilliant jeweller in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico that I met in Puerto Vallarta many years ago. She is talented, resourceful, passionate and someone whom I admire and love very much. She became my second unofficially “adopted” daughter about fifteen years ago. The distance between us has kept us from actually seeing one another in person very often, but we stay connected and always pick up exactly where we left off.

Crystal #1

Crystal #1

Crystal #2 is a wonderful young woman whom I met at a major oil and gas company in Calgary where we were both working. She moved to a smaller city in Alberta to continue her work in a petroleum-related business until a call back to the land took her back to her rural roots in Saskatchewan to fulfill her dream to take over her family’s farm.

Crystal #2

Crystal #2

I bring these young women up and the topic of synchronicity because my life seems to be surrounded by so much of it. Perhaps some of us are just more aware of these coincidences than others, or perhaps some of us actually experience these occurrences more frequently.

I was travelling from JFK in New York to Calgary yesterday and met a delightful young woman, Karen, from northern Germany, who has been living and working in Canada as an au pair. We struck up a conversation while waiting for the WestJet check-in to open and shared some great stories and histories. While we were waiting, a couple from Calgary, Candace and Hunter, lined up immediately behind Karen and commented that they had been seated next to her on the flight down from Calgary to JFK, randomly saw her several times in New York, were on the same subway train back to the airport, and then ultimately ended up in line immediately behind her again. As cliché as it may sound, we all agreed that it was a very small world indeed that was, in fact, getting smaller every day.

Hunter, Candace and Karen

Hunter, Candace and Karen

My most memorable story of personal synchronicity happened almost 15 years ago with Crystal #1, one of the young women that I introduced earlier. I had been in Mexico City probably seven years earlier where I spent several days with an amazing tour guide by the name of Emilio. Emilio was in the first graduating class of the University of Mexico after the Second World War and had so much knowledge and many extraordinary connections to make my time with him incredibly special. Fast-forward seven years and I was in the busy Zocalo area of Mexico City with Crystal and her friend, Zacbeeh. We had been buying jewelry materials for Crystal and were just on our way back to the Metro to head to Zacbeeh’s for the night. We were walking down the street and I looked and, much to my amazement, saw Emilio on the sidewalk right beside me – after so many years! Before this latest trip, he was the ONLY person that I knew in Mexico City – a city with a population of over 18 million. I remembered him and he remembered me. We embraced and quickly caught up, much to everyone’s amazement.

I’m not a religious person, but do consider myself to be spiritual. When these sorts of occurrences happen, I always feel incredibly blessed and that my angels are telling me that, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, I’m on the right path.

It really is a small world after all!