Local food fans rejoice, for the tastiest of Calgary’s summer festivals draws near. Kicking off its 16th year of providing the masses with sample-sized menu items from fine food establishments all over our fair city, Taste of Calgary is once again sure to bring some surprising and wonderful experiences to the tastebuds of festival goers on August 16th. Just what new delights does the festival have to offer this year? Taste of Calgary’s (ToC’s) Sue Van Aalst’s enthusiasm is tangible as she explains that they have been “spending a lot of time getting some new restaurants in the show this year! We have at least four new restaurants and probably in the end we’ll have seven or eight.” Though at time of interview the vendor lineup was still being cemented, some exciting new participants and dishes have been nailed down.
One such newcomer to ToC is the freshly-minted Black Betty Burger & Winebar, located downtown. Specializing in gourmet burgers, Van Aalst says they’ll be offering special sliders. One such will be a miniaturized version of their signature Betty Burger, which their menu describes as a “house blend brisket patty [with] mozzarella, maple peppered bacon, frizzled onion with vine-ripened tomato, butter leaf lettuce [and a] honey truffle Dijon.” Go ahead, I’ll forgive you while you wipe the drool from your chin. Also joining the ranks is Destination Pearl House, which Van Aalst says is “going to be doing some interesting things like Vietnamese Pork Patties, bubble tea… things that I don’t think a lot of people get exposure to.” Conversely, a few chains will be newly contributing some more familiar offerings to the festival, including the ever-expanding Jameson’s Pub as well as the Old Spaghetti Factory, which Van Aalst describes as “a family favourite” conveniently located down the block from the festival.
Returning favourites include China Rose, Fuji Yama, Heritage Deli, La Vita e Bella, Ric’s Grill and many more, offering tastes of everything from pork adobo to kashk-e-bademjan (Persian roasted eggplant) to homemade cabbage rolls to butter chicken — the options are endless. And, once again this year, ToC organizers are striving to make it affordable, with each food vendor offering at least one two-ticket ($2) item.
Once you’ve worked up a thirst, make your way to where the grown-ups play: the Taste of Calgary Cheers Garden. Boasting beloved breweries such as Alley Kat, Big Rock, Brew Brothers, Mill Street, Whistler Brewing Co., and Calgary’s latest local upstart, Village Brewery, the beer geek in you will have a field day. Beer not your thing? Sample wine, rum, cocktails, coolers. At only two to three tickets per sample, you can afford to make the rounds.
But wait, there’s more! Taste of Calgary attendees are also free to peruse the wares of local artisans and indulge in free samples from companies like Armstrong Cheese and Dr. Oetker, and, more importantly check out some terrific live music at the ToC stage. “We have a great lineup on the stage this year,” Van Aalst says and I tend to agree. “Thursday is typically our country day, but we’re mixing it up a little this year because we wanted to get Donald Ray Johnson again this year and he was only available on Thursday.” A worthwhile sacrifice to the traditional makeup of the ToC music schedule, as Grammy-award winning R&B powerhouse Johnson always blows the Calgary crowds away. Just as the food and drink offerings are diverse, so follows the music. Roots star T. Buckley and team will also appear, in addition to gypsy-jazz/swing outfit The Bow Djangos, power pop band The Beagle Ranch, the always crowd-pleasing Third Reel Celtic band, modern roots-rock charmer Matt Blais, and the Latin Combo Orquesta. Look the latter band up on YouTube and you’ll find some great clips from a recent local performance which prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that Calgarians are terrible at dancing and great at having fun. Good food, good drink, good music, maybe even some sunshine, it’s a win-win-win situation, so head down to Eau Claire from August 16-19 and be part of one of Calgary’s many cherished annual events.
Taste of Calgary runs from August 16 to 19 at Eau Claire.
By Brianna TurnerAB, Alberta, Featured