Monthly Archives: June 2014

Drink of the Week: Bees Knees (with Brugal rum)

I haven’t written about rum cocktails for awhile, so it was fortuitous that I received samples of a trio of Brugal rums from the Dominican Republic: the Brugal 1888, a sipper; Brugal Anejo, a dark rum; and Brugal Extra Dry, a light rum perfect for summer cocktails like the mojito or daiquiri. Brugal’s angle with the light rum is that it’s “extra dry.” How does this translates with taste? It’s light and crisp and not too sweet. And it mixes well with lemon juice and honey syrup to create the rummy Bees Knees.

This twist on a Bees Knees cocktail features smooth Brugal rum and bitters for extra spice.

This twist on a Bees Knees cocktail features smooth rum and bitters for extra spice.

Yes, it’s true that Bees Knees is a wedding season cocktail traditionally made with gin, but I think it works really well with rum. The honey syrup is naturally sweet, the perfect foil to the dry rum and tart lemon juice. I also love the addition of Angostura bitters — they add a spicy kick reminiscent of a rum punch but in a much lighter, more summery cocktail.

Bees Knees

  • 2 oz Brugal Extra Dry Rum
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz honey syrup (1:1 ratio honey to water)
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters

Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe (I used a martini glass).

— Recipe courtesy Brugal Rum

Training hike No. 1: Grassi Lakes

Blake and I are tackling Fernie’s famed Mountain Lakes Trail (known locally as Heiko’s Trail, after Heiko Socher, the long-time Fernie resident who built it) in late July. It’s a challenging 20-kilometre day hike that will take us up 1,400 metres of elevation, over two passes and around the flank of Mount Fernie on a long alpine traverse before dropping us back down 640 metres and depositing us on the Island Lake Lodge patio for a cold beer eight to 10 hours later.

The view from up where they blast avalanches all winter = sublime. And it was a beautiful 30C day too -- with no wind!

The last time we tackled a difficult hike in Fernie was when we were training for Kilimanjaro in 2012. Here we are on the Polar Peak loop.

Since our urban bodies would suffer greatly if we stumbled into this epic hike unprepared, we have embarked on a series of training hikes. Over the next five weeks we plan to knock off three or four day hikes that will become progressively harder and hopefully make Heiko’s feel like a cake-walk when the day comes (I can dream, right?).

Embarrassingly, our first “hike” hardly qualifies as a hike, since most Canmore residents consider the Grassi Lakes Trail a morning warm-up (the more fit among them have been known to run the four-kilometre loop daily). Also, I’m pretty sure I huffed past a couple of toddlers on Saturday — whom I might add were walking under their own power — so that should give you an idea of the walk’s ease. There are two ways up to Grassi Lakes: we took the more “technical” trail that switchbacks up along the waterfall and stream; the other, easier route is more like a gradual logging road that’s popular among Moms and Dads pushing Chariots (we chose this path for the descent).

The lakes get their colour

The lakes get their colour from minerals in the water.

Regardless, the hike provides a decent enough ascent (165 metres) for a first-hike-of-the-season and at the top you’re rewarded with nice views of Canmore and the Bow Valley as well as photo ops by the two stunning tourmaline-coloured lakes (the lakes and trail are named for Lawrence Grassi, a coal miner-turned-mountain guide who built the trail). At the top it’s fun to stop and watch rock climbers attempting various routes up the surrounding dolomite limestone walls, which have natural holds from erosion.

Climbers love the cliff wall that tower above the lakes as they're riddled with natural holds.

Climbers (on the left) love the cliff walls that tower above Grassi Lakes because they’re riddled with natural holds.

To make the hike more challenging we brought along Piper, our Brittany yearling. She still walks like a bit of a yo-yo on leash, zigzagging hither and yon, so we had to constantly watch where we were stepping to avoid her paws. At the lakes we continued hiking up to Spray Lakes Road, where Piper had a swim in the reservoir, then we turned around and headed back down.

Piper poses by one of two turquoise lakes after her first hike in Canmore.

Piper poses by one of the two Grassi Lakes after her first Canmore hike.

Drinking cold beers and eating delicious paninis on the Mountain Mercato patio on Canmore’s main street while Piper sunbathed on the adjacent sidewalk proved a perfect reward for a day well spent in the mountains.

Drink of the Week: In Memoir

My memories of visiting Angers in France revolve around sipping Cointreau over ice inside Chateau des Briottieres, an 18th-century chateau-turned-B&B, before sampling more Cointreau cocktails after touring the nearby Cointreau distillery the following day. Both the chateau and Cointreau are family-run enterprises, so it’s fitting that the winning cocktail from last week’s Mademoiselle Cointreau competition was a tasty drink named to commemorate family and the memories and ties that bind us together: In Memoir.

This twist on a Cointreau fizz is like a Cointreau-Ramos gin fizz hybrid. Do try this at home.

This twist on a Cointreau fizz is like a Cointreau-Ramos gin fizz hybrid.

Eight female bartenders representing various Calgary restaurants and lounges gathered at Belgo last Thursday to compete for the title of Mademoiselle Cointreau-Calgary by creating an original drink that’s a twist on a classic Cointreau fizz (1-1/2 Cointreau/1/2 lime/top soda water). Every cocktail had to include Cointreau and half a lime, as well as a fizz element such as the traditional soda water.

There were some inventive and delicious drinks mixed up, including a gorgeous ginger creation and a Raspberry Pie Sky made with raspberry sorbet, but the stand-out drink was In MemoirModel Milk bartender Madeleine MacDonald looked to the classic Ramos Gin Fizz and then took out the cream and added in Cointreau when creating her drink. Cointreau really is a natural addition to this drink given the ingredients. It works well with gin and lime, and I have yet to meet a drink that an egg white did not enhance — it somehow just smooths out any rough edges and blends the flavours together. I doubt I’ll ever actually make gewürtz syrup, but I imagine a honey syrup would be a tasty substitution. Enjoy!

In Memoir

  • 1 oz The Botanist gin
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz gewürztraminer syrup*
  • Dash orange flower water
  • Top soda water
  • Nasturtium garnish

Method: Dry shake all ingredients, except soda water, to emulsify egg white. Add ice and shake again. Double strain into an old fashioned glass and top with soda water. Garnish with a nasturtium.

*Gewürztraminer syrup: Heat one bottle of gewürztraminer white wine with two cups sugar until sugar has dissolved. Cool, portion and refrigerate.

— Recipe by Madeleine MacDonald, Model Milk



In the year since the flood…

I don’t really remember the days leading up to the Calgary flood. It was a blur of rainy days and meeting deadlines and end-of-the-year celebrations at my kids’ schools. I do, however, remember perfectly the view out the window.

The view from our window on June 20, 2013. Lots of green space and trees along the river bank.

The view from our window on June 20, 2013. Lots of green space and trees along the river bank.

There was a beautiful, bermed-up grass park sandwiched between our road and the bike path that used to run adjacent to the Bow River. The field was a place where Avery and Bennett ran around kicking balls and chasing butterflies, and where I threw sticks for Piper after walking Avery to school. When I close my eyes I can see it in unblemished detail, dandelions and all. When I open them all I see is a chain-link fence.

Our new view ever since June 24, 2013.

Our new view ever since June 24, 2013.

The fence has been erected since June 24, three days after the river eroded the park and a thin sliver of the street in the space of 60 hours between the night of June 20 and the morning of June 23. The fence is there to protect us from the ongoing bank and road rebuilding projects and, I suppose, to keep us from sleepwalking right out of the house and stumbling into the water.

But to me it has come to symbolize everything we lost in the flood: a park, a street, a public place for the kids to play, the “Piper walk” (the bike path where our family walked Piper as a puppy), peace of mind. Canada Post won’t deliver packages to our door, instead writing on the claim slip, “no road.” We haven’t been able to park in front of the house to unload groceries FOR A YEAR. Our alley, as the only access to the homes on our street, is most days frenetic (and occasionally impassable) with van deliveries, contractor’s trucks and residents coming and going. Visitors must park down the road on another block and walk. We still have a sidewalk at least, though bike commuters have turned it into a makeshift path and will even ring their bells at us to pass! Maybe it’s a little #firstworldproblems of me to complain about it (hey, at least we still have a house! And a newly renovated post-flood basement!), but I just want the fence down and the road rebuilt so we can have normalcy again. Or — at least — so we can get used to a new normal.

Crews have been working on and off since fall to fix the devastation wrought by the river. In October they reclaimed some of the lost land and reinforced the new, manmade bank with riprap.

Crews reclaimed new bank with dirt, gravel and riprap.

Crews reclaimed the bank with tonnes of dirt, gravel and riprap.

Watching crews pile on riprap from behind the fence.

Watching crews pile on riprap from behind the fence.

In winter they levelled the point bar on the north side of the river to the same grade as the water so that when the water rose this spring it could flow onto a lower plain (to compensate for narrowing the channel when they rebuilt the bank on our south side). They also built two gravel groynes on the cut bank (our side) to divert water away from the bank during heavy flow.

An seemingly endless parade of dump trucks hauled huge rocks from the point bar and trucked them over to the bird sanitary to be used as fill.

An seemingly endless parade of dump trucks hauled huge rocks from the point bar and trucked them over to the bird sanctuary to be used as fill.

Finally, this spring, they have planted trees and shrubs along our bank, and last week began work to reconstruct our street. Finally. I get that there are finite resources to rebuild all that was damaged around the city during last summer’s disaster, but isn’t having street access to homes a priority? And when crews decide to test the sewer line on your road and it ends up geysering urine-aroma water via the toilet all over your bathroom, you kind of just want it to end already.

A digger scrapes up the last of the asphalt in preparation for road resurfacing.

A digger scrapes up the last of the asphalt last week, in preparation for road resurfacing to begin as soon as the rain stops.

But I suppose I shouldn’t complain so much. Really, you get used to it. Until you close your eyes.


Drink of the Week: Sophia Loren Shim

The most popular cocktail post I’ve written is one from September 2012 that features an Aperol Spritz. I didn’t know it at the time, but Aperol and other lower-proof spirits and fortified wines, such as sloe gin, Campari, sherry and vermouth, are at the forefront of a new trend: low-alcohol cocktails. I’ve written all about it for this month’s Calgary Herald column, running Saturday.

The obvious question becomes: are they any good? Or does mixing drinks with liqueurs and spirits that clock in at lower than 40 percent alcohol by volume render them the near-beer equivalents of the cocktail world? Hardly. I sampled some while doing “research” for my story and they are just as tasty as their boozier brethren. Bonus: you can drink more of them before your evening goes sideways.

This gorgeous and delicious drink only contains the amount of alcohol in one 12-oz beer.

This gorgeous drink, called a Sophia Loren Shim, only contains the amount of alcohol in one 12-oz beer.

Here’s a tart and delicious one worth trying from Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to keep you level, by Dinah Sanders.

Sophia Loren Shim

  • 2 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz bourbon (to qualify as low-alcohol a drink cannot contain more than 1/2 oz of an 80-proof or higher spirit)
  • 4 dashes rhubarb bitters

Method: Chill an old fashioned glass. Shake ingredients with ice, then pour without straining into glass. Garnish with two lemon peels rolled together to create a flower.

— Recipe created by Kim Roselle at Flora and Fauna, Oakland, Calif., 2012



Drink of Negroni Week: Count Negroni

It’s true the Negroni is an acquired taste. At first sip many react with bitter beer face; that is to say, they scrunch up their noses and pucker their lips and wonder what exactly they’re supposed to love about a drink with equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari (an orange-flavoured, bitter Italian aperitif). Let the ice melt a bit and have another sip. You may not be won over immediately, but the longer you entertain its bittersweet taste, the more you will like it. Trust me on this.

Try one of Cilantros six twists on the Classic Negroni during Negroni Week, on through June 8. Image courtesy Cilantro, a Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts restaurant.

Try one of Cilantro’s six twists on the Negroni during Negroni Week, on through June 8. Image courtesy Cilantro, a Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts restaurant.

Whether or not you like them, you’re kind of obligated to try one this weekend because it’s Negroni Week through June 8. If traditional Negronis aren’t your thing, head over to Cilantro and check our their Negroni menu. Bartender Dominik Aschauer has created six twists on the classic drink. There’s his award-winning Cynar Flip, with Cynar Bitter, cardamom tonic and a rich egg custard, or sip on the Di Dieri, a champagne cocktail with hints of Campari and vermouth. Even the almost-classic Count Negroni (see recipe) strays from the traditional concoction with the addition of a single juniper berry and a dash of orange bitters. In the words of the menu, “Classic cocktails are so 2009.”

As part of Negroni Week, Cilantro is donating $1 to the Mustard Seed for every Negroni sold. If you still can’t get your head around the Negroni and its bitter brethren, suck it up and swallow it down. It’s for a good cause!

Count Negroni

  • 1 oz New Deal Gin
  • 1 oz Carpano Antica Vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari Bitter
  • 1 Juniper Berry
  • Bitter Truth Orange Bitters

Method: Crack juniper berry into a mixing glass. Add other ingredients with ice into mixing glass and  stir until chilled (approximately 30 seconds). Strain into rocks glass with large ice cube. Garnish with a flamed orange peel over the cocktail, rim glass and toss in orange peel.

— Recipe courtesy Cilantro

You say safari, I say Photoshop

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Other times, the photograph needs an explanation. Such is the case with the photo evidence from our visit to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the zoo’s facility in Escondido where animals such as elephants, giraffes and antelope species have a lot more room to roam about. The idea is it’s like you’re on a safari. We walked among the lemurs, rode a tram to see a cheetah and rhinos, and fed nectar to beautiful rainbow lorikeets. Mostly, the day went as planned, but I’m not gonna lie. There were a few Griswold moments.

Leaping lemurs! 

Leaping lemurs! This photo was totally worth $20. It's going to be our Christmas card this year.

This photo was totally worth $20. It’s going to be our Christmas card this year.

Here we are cavorting with the lemurs! I don’t know what it is about attractions, but super-imposing animals into photographs has become a thing. They do this at SeaWorld, where the photo looks like you’re holding a baby penguin, and also at the San Diego Zoo. Outside the entrance to Lemur Walk they make you stand a certain way, cradling your arms or throwing your shoulder back just so, then one of the hired photographers takes your family’s picture and hands you a photo card with a bar code on it. Lo and behold at the end of the day when you go to the photo booth to see your portrait, it’s as if you’ve been cast into a non-cartoon remake of Madagascar. Naturally, it’s so cheesy you shell out the $20. It should be noted that the real lemurs inside the exhibit do not pose like in the picture. Mostly, they sleep up in trees.

You lookin’ at me, kid?

Bennett stares down a lorikeet.

Bennett stares down a rainbow lorikeet.

We moved on to Lorikeet Landing to hold these colourful birds. The things is, they won’t hop onto your arm unless you buy some nectar to feed them. So here’s Bennett trying to pet a lorikeet that kept hopping away from him. Finally, he put his arms down and the bird looked at him as if to say, “So, um, where’s my food dude?” It goes without saying I immediately exited the exhibit to purchase two dose cup-sized servings of liquid sugar. I think it keeps the lorikeets sane (or at least stops them from pecking your eyes out).

Redneck safari

Bennett channels his inner bumpkin boy on the Africa Tram.

Bennett channels his inner bumpkin on the Africa Tram.

To say that Bennett can sometimes be difficult at the most inopportune times is an understatement. The kid excels at it. So there we were not three minutes in to our 30-minute tram safari when Avery and Bennett start fighting. More specifically, Bennett decides to repeatedly push Avery for no apparent reason. I separate them by sitting between them and then I try to distract Bennett by pointing out the rhinos and elephants and giraffes.

Bennett: “I have to go pee.”

Me: “You’ll have to wait.”

Bennett: “I’m hungry.”

Me: “You just ate lunch. Look at the animals.”

Bennett: “I don’t like this shirt.”

What can you say to that? But Bennett had a plan. He took his shirt off and completed the safari in true NASCAR-fan style. Later, at the splash park, he ran around until his shorts and underpants were sopping wet. I guess I should be glad he didn’t have a tantrum somewhere for good measure.

But all of these silly incidents are what we’ll remember most when we think about the safari park in years to come. What’s more, we’ve got photos that perfectly illustrate our weird and wonderful safari adventures.