Monthly Archives: May 2012

Drink of the Week: Bloody Caesar

If there’s one cocktail that says Canada — or at least Calgary — it’s the Caesar. The drink was invented in Calgary in 1969 by bartender Walter Chell, who wanted to add a twist to the established Bloody Mary. The game changer? Clamato juice.

Caesars are, arguably, an acquired taste. I’ve lived in Calgary now for 15 years and don’t love them. But after trying the Bloody Caesar at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel last weekend, I think I’m ready to re-explore this relationship. It probably has something to do with the fact they make their own horseradish sauce (you can see little bits of it floating at the bottom of the glass) and add balsamic vinegar — another twist! — but this Caesar is the best I’ve tasted. So, Hail Bloody Caesar! I’m a convert.

Bloody Caesar

  • 1-3/4 oz Finlandia vodka
  • 8 oz Clamato juice
  • 3 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 2 drops Worcestershire sauce
  • Lime juice (to taste)
  • Fresh horseradish (to taste)
  • Balsamic vinegar (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Lemon wedge and celery stick garnishes
  • Celery salt to rim glass

Rim a hurricane glass with celery salt then pack with ice. Build the drink over ice, stir, garnish and serve. Note: The Fairmont Banff Springs kicks up the garnishes a notch by opting for a lime wedge, speared olive and a pickled asparagus spear. Like!

— Courtesy Rundle Lounge at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel

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Top 5 kids’ activities in Banff: shoulder season

Banff can be a fickle destination during shoulder season. Too warm for skiing; too cold to go canoeing; too wet for a family hike. I was there with Blake and the kids this past weekend for the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food festival and I wondered what we’d do to keep busy when I wasn’t sampling $295 cocktails at the Rimrock Resort. I needn’t have worried. We were fortunate to be staying at the Douglas Fir Resortthe place in town for families, thanks to an elaborate indoor playzone and two awesome water slides — but there was a ton to do off the compound down in town. Here’s a run-down of our top five:

1. Banff Hot Springs: Rain or shine, the iconic Banff hot springs is great for families. Shallow in parts, Avery and Bennett loved splashing around in the 40C waters. We loved the killer view.

Toasty warm in the pool with a snow-covered mountain in the background.

2. Sulpher Mountain: The kids liked riding to the top of Sulpher Mountain (2,281 metres) on the goldola. At the top, the 0ne-kilometre-long Banff Skywalk takes you along the mountain’s spine to various viewpoints with interpretive signs. Avery and Bennett tolerated the walk, but were thrilled to pack in to the gondola again for the ride back down.

The ride is the best part for kids.

3. Douglas Fir Resort: You’re in Banff, so you feel kind of guilty if you stay put at your hotel the entire weekend. But truthfully, I know a family who checked in to the Douglas Fir and didn’t leave until it was time to drive back to Calgary. Our kids spent a good hour climbing through the indoor playzone, then Blake took them to the water slides for a couple hours one afternoon. We could’ve easily repeated the program, again and again. Another bonus: all the rooms have kitchenettes and free Wi-Fi.

Avery slides at the playzone. Finally, the kids are old enough we don’t have to worry about rescuing them from somewhere inside the maze.

4. Banff Ave. Brewing Co.: I love restaurants where there are TVs broadcasting hockey games, the waiter brings crayons and a kid menu as soon as you sit down, and you don’t have to worry if your kids are loud or spill their food. And even if it all goes south at the Banff Ave. Brewing Co., at least you’ve got seven microbrews to choose from for sorrow-drowning.

5. Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum: This is on my list only because the Whyte Museum was showcasing art, which Avery deemed “boring,” and the Banff Park Museum was closed. Lo and behold, across the river we saw what looked like a wood fort with smoke rising from a chimney: the Luxton Museum. With more taxidermied animals than I’ve ever seen in one exhibit (there was a taxidermied wolverine! And a bunch of horses!), plus a couple tepees, the kids loved it.

“Oh, behave!”

What about you? What are your favourite family activites in Banff during shoulder season?

Drink of the Week: Margarita

Please don’t hate me because I love margaritas. I know I tend to go on about them and recently blogged about a Prickly Pear Margarita, but they really are just the right combination of sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Plus, it’s Cinco de Mayo tomorrow — voted one of the Top 10 booziest holidays by Time magazine — so what better excuse do you need to rim a rocks glass with salt, juice some limes and shake up the best party cocktail ever?

It’s a party in a glass, but way classier to drink than shooting back tequila poppers all night.

Margarita

  • 2 oz 100 percent agave reposado tequila (I like Casa Herradura)
  • 1 oz Cointreau (or Controy if, like me, you’ve recently returned from Mexico with a couple of bottles)
  • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp. (or to taste) agave nectar or simple syrup
  • Coarse sea salt to rim glass, if desired
  • Lime wheel garnish

Rim a margarita glass with sea salt and then fill with crushed ice. In a shaker, combine tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and syrup. Shake with ice then strain into the margarita glass. Garnish with a lime wheel. Repeat (they’re like potato chips: you can’t have just one).

Go ahead, dive right in! Mmmm … margaritas …

My daughter’s bucket list: exotic travel, animals and Disneyland

When we were in Ixtapa, Mexico over spring break my husband got to check off an item from his bucket list: parasailing. This got our daughter asking, “What’s a bucket list?” We explained it’s a list of things you want to do or try or see before you die.

Avery got pretty excited and started writing her own bucket list, with pink magic marker:

Kids can have bucket lists too. And they dream of doing a lot more than just eating Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries for every meal and moving to Hawaii.

I know it’s hard to read and the spelling is somewhat appalling (she is only in Grade 1 … still, maybe we should switch to a private school?) but here are some highlights (it continued on the back of the page):

  1. Hot air balloon
  2. Visit Antarctica
  3. Get a dog
  4. Visit a castle
  5. Raft through the Grand Canyon with my family
  6. Go to Mexico and dance on the table
  7. Visit a jungle in South America
  8. Ride a camel
  9. Get my ears pierced
  10. Go to China and eat dim sum
  11. Go to Disneyland
  12. Go to Africa
  13. Drive a car
  14. Climb a mountain (the highest one)

I am pleased there are so many travel-related items on her list, though I have to wonder how much was influenced by Blake, who kept suggesting ideas as he sipped on Coronitas. One of them (No. 6) was something he did back in university, which resulted in stitches at a Mazatlan clinic after he fell off the table and cut open his head (Avery loves this story). And I’m not sure when Avery decided to climb Mount Everest, but I guess it shows she has ambition and a love of the mountains.

When I was six I’m pretty sure I would have written down things like, “Lose a tooth and see the Tooth Fairy,” or, “Invite Elizabeth over to play.” It goes to show how today’s youth are being shaped by their parents’ tastes and TV preferences (exotic travel and The Amazing Race).

A recent “bucket list” story in the Globe and Mail listed 50 things a kid should do before they turn 12. Many of the items were simple things like “Climb a tree,” “Camp out in the wild,” “Bury someone in the sand” and “Climb a huge hill” — activities that should, arguably, be a part of childhood without having to legislate them onto a bucket list. But the point of the story is that many kids aren’t getting enough back-to-nature time. They’re stuck behind screens playing Angry Birds instead of feeding a real bird seeds from the palm of their hand.

Avery checks off No. 18 from the story's list: "Balance on a fallen tree."

So, even though Avery’s bucket list items are quite a bit more complicated than those in the Globe, I take comfort in the fact that she’s likely to climb a tree (in the South American jungle), camp out in the wild (in Africa), bury her brother in the sand (in Ixtapa — cross that off the list) and climb a huge hill (does Mount Everest count?). The only trick will be accomplishing these feats before she turns 12.

Do you — or your kids — have a bucket list? What’s on it?

Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo

The Penguin Plunge has been open at the Calgary Zoo since February 17. Since I consider waiting in a two-hour-long line with my children to be way more painful than a bikini wax, we delayed until this past weekend to visit the black and white feathered swimmers in their new Antarctic-like home.

The penguins are perfectly suited for life in Calgary as they come from a frigid polar land.

Our strategy worked. After arriving right when the zoo gates opened at 9 a.m. — and getting to see a flock of the Humboldt penguins in their outdoor enclosure — we only had to wait for 30 minutes to go inside the new exhibit. Because The Boy gets restless in these types of queuing situations, I walked Bennett down to the bridge after explaining we’d have to immediately turn around and march back up to the Penguin Plunge again. At which point he screamed, “I don’t want to see the penguins!!” (Because were so close to the hippos at that point.) Sigh.

I dragged him back right as a zoo lady began explaining the rules, including, “Don’t pet the penguins even though they’ll be really close,” and “Don’t lift your kid up over your head to see the penguins because he might fall into frigid water filled with penguin poop,” and “If a penguin catapults itself out of the water, over the glass and onto the concrete floor, don’t attempt to pick it up.” Wow, what hijinks might occur inside? It sounded exciting!

Bennett loved watching the penguins swim but sadly didn't get to pet or swim with one. Avery was somewhat turned off by the strong poop smell.

Upon entering the inside space I didn’t know where to look first. A walkway takes visitors between two large pools surrounded by faux snow-capped rock outcrops that are crowded with waddling penguins. We saw king, rockhopper and gentoo penguins diving from the rocks into the water, where they swam with grace and a speed that almost makes you dizzy. Huge panes of glass allow kids and adults to see their antics underwater. It’s an amazingly well-done exhibit and your allotted time (15 minutes) goes by fast. The zoo lady was right: the flightless birds are so close you can touch them. Well, my husband did, anyway. “Petting a penguin is on my bucket list,” he said, somewhat defensively.

Bennett really could have reached over and petted one of them but he listened to the zoo lady and refrained from breaking the rules.

Both kids loved watching the penguins though Avery was weirdly preoccupied with making sure I got a picture of her next to the fake penguins on the way out.

Here she is with four faux penguins.

Overall a great experience. We’ll be back little penguins, because I’ve added a new item to my bucket list!

Have you been the the Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo? Did you pet them or witness one jumping over the glass? Or, did your kid fall in to the water??