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We’re probably going to pay for this…

 

Hoar frost - bushes

 

While people down south have been gleefully shoveling rare snow and building gray snowmen, February has been unseasonably warm on the prairies. Like scary warm, with temperatures barely dipping below zero and daytime highs of 4-8 C.

 

Instead of snow Calgary has been frequently blanketed by insanely thick fog. The kind that muffles all the sounds and gives a cathedral like hush to the city. The kind that turns the sky dusky white, even in broad daylight. The kind that settles in a kind of beautiful hoar frost all over trees and railings and bushes and mailboxes. The kind that feels like there’s magic in the air and it could swallow you whole.

 

Hoar frost - mailbox 

 

Most of the time this happens at night lending an otherworldly stillness to the evenings, but the photos below were taken at 2 pm or so on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago. It was enchanting, and I have a feeling we will dearly pay for this with crappy weather in April/May/June/July – take your pick.

 

Hoar frost - white sky park

 

Hoar frost - pine tree

 

Does someone want to tell me why this tree in my front yard never shed its leaves? Thanks.

 

Hoar frost - tree

Age of Dinosaurs

I grew up on the cusp of the digital age. My foray into the vast world of computers included reading DOS for Dummies and everything. I was a user of the old school BBS boards and by the time the internets rolled around and the possibilities stretched out endless before us, people of my generation jumped in like it’s going out of style. We banged our heads against the early search engines, gleefully sent each other any semi-interesting sites, found (or founded) online communities and started blogs. Slowly sites figured out new revenue generating models and formerly paid sites like encyclopedias and major newspapers went free. The digital content exploded and information sharing came into its own. Except for it really didn’t.

 

Living in Canada I am often exceedingly frustrated at how much online content is not available here simply because of some arbitrary geographic restriction and outdated modes of thinking on parts of both the content providers and our very own governmental regulations. From TV shows to music files to the latest Olympic coverage I am often confronted by the screen-of-death error message that tells me I’m in the wrong part of the world to be able to watch whatever it is I was looking for. And that just pisses me off to no end. Take the latest Olympic coverage – last night I missed some event or another because I have a life occasionally and can’t be glued to the TV all day, so I optimistically thought I’d catch it online. Except for that didn’t work. Cause you see the International Olympics Committee has some sort of asshat restrictions on who is allowed rights to broadcast online in each country, so if I’m not mistaken it’s NBC in the states and CTV here. Except for CTV’s video page has all sorts of asinine clips available like someone’s workout routine and lame interviews and such, but not very many videos of the actual events where those athletes do whatever it is they do to merit an interview. I mean does anyone really go on their site to watch them light the cauldron or the opening essay, both of which are prominently featured on their sparsely populated video page? I sure don’t. I go to see actual coverage of actual events both past and present except for the content is not there. I’m sure NBC’s site has what I’m looking for (US sites in general seem to be much more on the ball about digital content), but due to asshat Canadian restrictions they can’t stream them here. See the pattern?

 

So in this supposedly free digital age of endless information there are oh so very many instances where people around the world are excluded from the conversation and participation by their very own governments and third party agencies that should not be allowed to have any say in who watches what when and where. It smacks of paternalism and results in mass frustration and leads users to either find the content illegally or fume silently. Perhaps once upon a time this may have made sense as many shows aired in the US much earlier than other countries and restricting online content until after the show aired was only prudent, but in this day and age of the modern media environment it seems like a throwback to the ridiculous protectionist policies that permeated earlier decades. The Olympic events already happened after all.

 

In my frustration I know I’m barely scratching the surface of the battle for digital freedom. Google’s skirmish with China shone a bit of a spotlight on the issue, and right now the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is being negotiated between the US, Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan cloaked in secret negotiations and shady repercussions ranging from border searches to ISP providing information about suspected copyright infringers without a warrant. If you want to read some real scary discourse check out these posts by Michael Geist – the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-Commerce Law at the U of Ottawa, and this brief by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Perhaps it’s just my small-government (yeah I know, I live in the wrong country) and free market sensibilities but the fact that these policies are hammered out behind closed doors and seem to cater to corporations irk me if not outright scare me. The fact that anyone feels like they have the right to dictate when and where I can watch or listen to digital content strikes me as absurd. And the fact that CTV can’t get their site to join the 21 century is just pathetic.  I know that despite all the rhetoric we don’t live in anything approaching personal freedom but it sucks to be disillusioned this badly about the digital frontier.

A Spanish Treat

Artisan Bistro - outside

 

There are many cons against large cities. From the crawling traffic congestion to urban sprawl, from rising crime rates to choking pollution, living in cities is not for everyone and many people long to escape, which is why vacation properties are so popular. But undeniably there are perks too. And for me one of those perks is discovering new places – new places to eat, shop, browse and in general make life more palatable and entertaining. In the last decade Calgary has reached some magic population density where new stirrings around town outnumber one person’s ability to keep track of them.  More little subcultures are developing, more restaurants opening, more small businesses are finding a niche, all of which makes for much more interesting city life.

 

Which is how I discovered completely fantastic churros right in Calgary, in a small restaurant in Bridgeland, which has actually been around for a few years but never made it onto my radar. One cold (is it ever anything but in Calgary?) Saturday morning I was at work in my office downtown.  (I normally never work weekends, and in fact have a personal rule to only put in overtime for an exceedingly good cause, so this was an exception). A girlfriend took pity on me and proposed going out for brunch to break up the slog of the workday.  Quickly searching a place that serves late brunch we decided to stick close to the core and ended up at Artisan Bistro in Bridgeland.

 Artisan Bistro - inside

 

Artisan Bistro - rose

 

Located on a wide quiet street Artisan Bistro is a small restaurant that has managed to get plenty of accolades from the local papers. Inside it was quiet and airy with pale yellow walls, burgundy trim and white linens on all the tables. A single perfect rosebud on the table added a cheerful touch. The menu was two pages long, with brunch stuff on one side and heavier fare on the other.  They have a house granola, crepes, French toast and the usual assortment of omelets and eggs. I was seduced by the sound of El Bistro – an omelet with house chorizo, grape tomatoes, scallions and mahon cheese with pan roasted potatoes and golden grain toast.  My girlfriend was more in the mood for lunch and settled on a bowl of seafood chowder and the  Athena sandwich with grilled lamb, roasted peppers, caramelized onions and herb aioli.

 Artisan Bistro - omelet

Artisan Bistro - chowder

Artisan Bistro - sandwich

 

The food was just shy of fantastic, firmly in the Very Good camp. The soup was hearty with real chunks of seafood, perfectly cooked veggies, homemade tasting broth, hot and creamy and utterly satisfying. The sandwich was excellent – tender flavorful lamb offset by caramelized onions and a savoury mayo. The side salad had pretty good house dressing. The omelet was tasty with good house sausage, but lacked the height of greatness that AKA Bistro’s omelet achieves. The potatoes were very good and served with ‘real’ ketchup… couldn’t resist there. The toast was surprisingly a highlight in itself, not a mere afterthought. Warm, buttery, grainy it tasted way better than any toast I’ve had lately.

 Artsan Bistro - churros

 

But on this very momentous day, we somehow overcame our natural resistance of desserts when we saw churros on the menu. Both of us are an anomaly to womanhood in that we don’t have much of a sweet tooth and will gladly skip dessert in favor of a savory appetizer but the stars were aligned just right that day and soon the best dessert I’ve had in some time was placed before us. It’s hard to fault anything deep fried, but these strips of deep fried dough sprinkled with just enough icing sugar to enhance their taste and served with the richest, smoothest, most decadent cup of dark chocolate were a revelation. Crunchy, warm and – this is key – not too sweet they were a perfect dessert.  And now I understand how they’re such a hit in Spain, at a much lower cost than a plane ticket.

 

Cool walkway in the back

Cool walkway in the back

 

 

 

 

4/5

Artisan Bistro

809 1 Avenue NE
Calgary, AB T2E 0C2
(403) 263-3727 

All Day Bruch:  Wednesday – Sunday 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

(kitchen closes at  2:30)
Dinner: Friday – Saturday 6 :00PM – 10:00PM

(kitchen closes at  9:30)

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