Stampeding Through Calgary for Impressive Food (and Coffee)

My life of layovers of late gave me less than 24 hours in Calgary. It was my first time there in many years, which led to the eternal question: How to maximize my minimal time for meals?

I followed a lead from a person I met at Feast Portland and upon landing ate dinner at Anju, which apparently translates to “food you eat with alcohol.” The menu is full of Korean tapas meant for sharing, but alas it was just me, so the kitchen set me up with a tasting menu so I could sample as much as possible.

For what I recall to be a “cowboy” town, the scene was somewhat swanky, with sophisticated young professionals partaking of craft cocktails and animated conversation. (Yes, I was last in Calgary many years ago.) With change has come an improved culinary scene, as evidenced by my fun and flavorful meal at Anju.

A nice starter of King salmon sashimi with chili oil, soy sauce, ponzu, jalapeno, and crispy kale.

A nice starter of King salmon sashimi with chili oil, soy sauce, ponzu, jalapeno, and crispy kale.

Sogori mandu (oxtail tortellini) with soy sauce, truffle oil, and grana padano.

Sogori mandu (oxtail tortellini) with soy sauce, truffle oil, and grana padano.

Tofu turned rich: tofu and foie gras parfait with compressed Korean pear-black pepper jam, pine nuts, and toasted brioche.

Tofu turned rich: tofu and foie gras parfait with compressed Korean pear-black pepper jam, pine nuts, and toasted brioche.

My favorite dish of the night: crispy tofu (dubu kimchi) with pork belly, sauteed kimchi, and citrus aioli. Great flavors!

My favorite dish of the night: crispy tofu (dubu kimchi) with pork belly, sauteed kimchi, and citrus aioli. Great flavors!

Grilled stuffed squid with spicy beef fried rice, fried tentacles, lemon scallion oil, and nori-squid ink mayo.

Grilled stuffed squid with spicy beef fried rice, fried tentacles, lemon scallion oil, and nori-squid ink mayo.

Maple Hill chicken wings with gochujang, salt, and Sichuan peppercorn. These were a little on the sweet side.

Maple Hill chicken wings with gochujang, salt, and Sichuan peppercorn. These were a little on the sweet side.

A fun finish to the meal: pork belly lettuce wraps with Thai basil, ssamjang, chili, fried garlic, and scallion oil.

A fun finish to the meal: pork belly lettuce wraps with Thai basil, ssamjang, chili, fried garlic, and scallion oil.

The next morning I headed over to the Simmons Building (yes, a former mattress factory), site of the newest Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters café. It also happens to be the company headquarters and future location of the roasterie. Here I met with Phil and Sebastian themselves, learning a lot about their history (it’s well worth a read of their “epic story”) and their commitment to nurturing relationships with coffee growers. And, of course, I sampled some of their beans, prepared by my preferred method of pour-over.

Outside the Simmons Building (photo courtesy of Vanessa Ng, Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters)

Outside the Simmons Building (photo courtesy of Vanessa Ng, Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters)

Inside Phil & Sebastian (photo courtesy of Vanessa Ng, Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters)

Inside Phil & Sebastian (photo courtesy of Vanessa Ng, Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters)

Seating area (photo courtesy of Vanessa Ng, Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters)

Seating area (photo courtesy of Vanessa Ng, Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters)

Time was short (so fast that I didn’t shoot any photos!), but I took a little tour of the location, including peeks at Charbar (a precursor to my lunch) and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery—where I enjoyed a croissant and some delicious bread with butter, making me want to return to try more items.

After a little non-food work, I dashed into downtown for a pre-airport rush meal, racing through lunch and dinner dishes at Charcut Roast House. Chefs John Jackson and Connie Desousa (a Top Chef Canada finalist) were away, but their team took care of me as I sat at the chef’s counter and just let them feed me until I waved the white flag.

This is definitely a destination for meat lovers, though I really appreciated other the elements on each of my plates that made for interesting eating. The counter is a great place to watch the food preparation, and my meal was such fun that it was worth cutting it close to missing my flight home.

A “little” starter: house-made linguiça with São Jorge cheese.

A “little” starter: house-made linguiça with São Jorge cheese.

Pig head mortadella (wow!), fresh brioche and raclette. That’s some beautiful and delicious “bologna.”

Pig head mortadella (wow!), fresh brioche and raclette. That’s some beautiful and delicious “bologna.”

Ready for something refreshing: dandelion salad with white bean hummus, sourdough, and pickled chilies.

Ready for something refreshing: dandelion salad with white bean hummus, sourdough, and pickled chilies.

Tuna conserva with lemon-pickled potatoes and sourdough.

Tuna conserva with lemon-pickled potatoes and sourdough.

Bison brisket with beech (shimeji) mushrooms, boar bacon, and sour cream. Plus a side of poutine w/truffle gravy. I was too full to finish this! (Well, at least the poutine. I did finish the irresistible brisket…)

Bison brisket with beech (shimeji) mushrooms, boar bacon, and sour cream. Plus a side of poutine w/truffle gravy. I was too full to finish this! (Well, at least the poutine. I did finish the irresistible brisket…)

Sweet (and rich) finish: cookie butter bar with pecans, chocolate ganache, butterscotch, and Oreo crumble.

Sweet (and rich) finish: cookie butter bar with pecans, chocolate ganache, butterscotch, and Oreo crumble.

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