I had intended to go down to Eau Claire Market in downtown Calgary for the Taste of Calgary on Saturday and Sunday this year – but unfortunately other things came up, so I ended up missing Saturday’s ToC along with Rock the Walk – but I did get down on Sunday instead.
I’ve written a bit about the Taste of Calgary (ToC) before, but for those of you who are new to the concept, basically you purchase tickets on the grounds, and then trade those tickets in for different sample-sized food, drinks, or treats from a wide range of local vendors. The vendors represent pubs, delis, restaurants, and fast-food eateries. In the adult-only beverage garden there are also liquor stores and breweries represented.
In the past, tickets were 75 cents/each, with a discount if you purchased tickets in large quantities. It made it a better deal if you were planning to go over several days (The festival runs Thursday – Sunday) or if you were there with others or your family. This year the tickets were $1.00 each (as they were last year I think) but there were no ‘bulk’ discounts. This would have made it easier to just buy enough tickets for one item, but didn’t encourage repeat visits to the festival in my opinion.
I really like the ToC – I like the chance to try things that I wouldn’t otherwise try – I like the low commitment – and the chance to see what other restaurants might have that I haven’t tried before. However, I heard from several people who weren’t going this year that it was just too expensive – that although the sample sizes were good – they were largely too expensive for what you got – the same size with a lower ticket price would make the festival more accessible. I definitely agree – for instance my tiny slice of cake was 3 tickets = 3$. At a bakery I would have received a slice three times this size for $3-4.
On Sunday the grounds were very crowded – a little too much for my liking. Perhaps next year I’ll try to go on Thursday night instead and skip the families and as many people wandering. Plus, we were there around 1pm, and it was swelteringly hot – I found that really uncomfortable after a while too. I did notice that a lot of the vendors had vegan/vegetarian and gluten-free options as well. They might have mentioned this before, but this was the first time I really noticed.
Ok.. so now to the important part – the food!
Mini Boxty – Jameson’s Irish Pub – 4 tickets = 4$
The first thing I tried was the mini boxty from Jameson’s. I LOVE the boxty from another Irish pub I frequent, so it was kind of cool to compare. In my opinion, the boxty from my usual haunt is way better – though this one with chicken and bacon was pretty darn good! Trying to eat it with a spoon though – not so easy. They seemed to have been out of forks when I was there.
Calamari with tzatziki – Pegasus – 4 tickets = 4$
I was trying to decide between the lamb and the calamari – but settled on the calamari. I was actually really disappointed. I found them over-battered, too oily for my preference, and the tzatziki sauce had very little flavour. I’ll stick with fast-food Greek Opa! instead for the time being. (Until I can get back to my favourite Greek place downtown!)
Lemoncello Tart – La vita e Bella – 2 tickets = 2$
Just a little square – but nice and sour without being too sweet. Delicious!
Shortbread crusted key lime tart– Downtown food – 2 tickets = 2$
Oddly enough, this one didn’t make the published menu, so I had to go to the menu online to find it! http://www.tasteofcalgary.com/2012_menu.html A tiny lime tart with a shortbread crust topped with meringue. I don’t care for meringue, and thought the crust was a bit thick – but the lime inside was good!
Red velvet cake – The Old Spaghetti Factory – 3 tickets = 3$
A thin but delicious little slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.
Sushi combo – Sumo Lounge – 5 tickets = 5$
With my remaining 5 tickets I bounced back and forth between what I might want, but finally settled on the combo – a shrimp, and a salmon piece, plus a small crab and cucumber roll.
Peach Virgin Margarita – Ric’s Grill – 2 tickets = 2$
When we were ready to go, my companion found an extra two tickets, which she gave me since there was nothing more she wanted. I got this drink on the way out which was fine. Nothing special really.
Some of the things my companion had:
- Virgin Bellini – Jameson’s Irish Pub – 3 tickets = 3$
- Polish garlic sausage – Heritage Bakery – 2 tickets = 2$
- Thai fresh shrimp spring roll – Delicious Thai – 4 tickets = 4$
- Spanakopita with tzatziki – Pegasus – 3 tickets = 3$
- Calamari with tzatziki – Pegasus – 4 tickets = 4$
- Tuna sushi – Sumo Lounge – 2 tickets = 2$
This time we weren’t really in the mood for booze – the beverage garden is usually far more crowded than the rest of the festival, and it was already crowded enough!
Food challenges & freebies
There was also the Armstrong cheese challenge – tasting Armstrong chedder versus their top competitor (I selected the competitor). After the challenge they gave us a tiny bit of a really good grilled cheese sandwich with tomato and basil (really way too greasy for me though!). The Pepsi taste challenge was there too – too much work to do their challenge IMO, and I didn’t bother filling out all of their form. Oddly enough, I picked diet coke over diet pepsi…
One of the frozen pizza places was there too – but we skipped that line up, though we did get little chocolate/granola bars from another vendor (Chocomax) handing out freebies.
In closing – the prices really need to go down, but otherwise it was a really nice day out. After ToC we headed to Calgary Opera’s Voices in the Village – a short walk up along the Bow River Pathway to the East Village – a free outdoor hour-long opera performance.
Did you go to the Taste of Calgary this year? What did you think?