5 Tips for Having a Great Culinary Weekend in Calgary
By Dan Clapson
One of the best parts of being able to take a vacation is experiencing the cuisine of another city. Whether you’re in Calgary for just the weekend or an entire week, there’s never quite enough time to discover all that this city has to offer to your appetite.
Since time is likely of the essence, here are five tips from a seasoned traveler (and eater), myself, to help you make the most of exploring this Western Canadian city with your palate. (Note: tips are applicable to travels elsewhere, but never forget who shared them with you in the first place!)
1. Bring a decent-sized suitcase, but pack light: If you’re coming to a city with dining on the top of the agenda, chances are that you’re going to want to go check out some artisan shops, farmers’ markets and food specialty stores too. That means you’ll be buying up any number of edible products to truck back with you. As much as we all want to bring multiple outfits with us for each vacation day, keep your luggage light, with only a couple pair of pants and shoes, leaving lots of room to bring home any goodies. You’re here to eat and explore, not to walk down a fashion runway.
2. Get your hands on the local food and drink publications: There are different publications that are heavily geared towards travelers. Although they’re informative, these usually lean towards the ‘family friendly’ side of things. Here in Calgary, City Palate, Avenue Magazine and Culinaire are the three print sources that highlight some of the best of the city’s culinary culture. Look to these (readily available in the downtown area in print, and also, online) for food-related information, guides and tips.
3. Start and end your night at the places you most want to eat at: Let’s face it. Every time a food lover travels, they have a list a mile long with names of establishments they’re hoping to eat at and not all of them will take reservations. A well-seasoned foodie traveler will aim to hit multiple restaurants within one night, so start (early, like 5:30 p.m.) and end (later, like 10:00 p.m) with your top picks. Fill the middle (i.e. peak dinner service) with places you are wanting to check out, but are not dying to. That way, if one spot is too busy, you can just make a note to come by next time you’re in town. No tears and a full belly.
4. Have one light meal a day: It saddens me to say this, but even diehard food fans can’t eat elaborately for the entire duration of a vacation. Well, maybe some can, but that’s not the norm. It can be hard on your stomach, not to mention your wallet. Find a marketplace downtown like Sunterra or Calgary Co-op that offers quality grab and go meal options. Have granola and some fresh fruit for breakfast (if your hotel has a small refrigerator, then all the better! Stock it up!) or a small grain salad for lunch. And, I mean, really, not everything you eat needs to be Instagram worthy? Actually, I take that back. It does.
5. Reach out on social media to businesses you’re interested in visiting: This can go for just about any business in the city. It’s 2013 and social media is king. From large-scale operations like Big Rock Brewery to Calgary’s food trucks and independent restaurants, everyone is all about the interaction when it comes to social media streams. Shooting a tweet out to one of the places you’re really looking foward to experiencing may not only get you a friendly response (Calgarians are pretty swell like that), but maybe even a ‘hello’ from the chef or a behind-the-scenes tour. You never know until you put it out there, right?
Dan Clapson is a food writer and columnist based out of Calgary, Alberta. His published works include restaurant features and chef profiles as well as articles about creating recipes and hands-on culinary experiences. In addition to writing for Food Network Canada and for Avenue and WestJet’s up! magazine, Dan spends time with some of western Canada’s top chefs in professional kitchens to better appreciate the craft of cooking. In fall 2013, he co-founded Eat North, a food-focused media outlet specializing in Canadian cuisine.
Dan has appeared on the Food Network Canada shows Eat St. and You Gotta Eat Here and contributes to FNC online in his popular blog series, Top Chef Canada: Taking The Challenge Home. He believes culinary culture can be truly appreciated by approaching food from every angle, and his own appreciation of this is reflected in his writing and on his popular blog, Dan's Good Side.
When he’s not writing or eating, which is rare, Dan can be found teaching university students how to cook through his free cooking program Start From Scratch. He believes that the food he eats is only as good as the company that surrounds him, which is why he is lucky to have some the best friends in the whole, wide world. If you want to know what Dan’s up to, right this very moment, check him out on Twitter.