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.
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.
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.
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.
809 1 Avenue NE
Calgary, AB T2E 0C2
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)