A Calgary Kind of Craving

Peace Bridge, Calgary
Photo credit – D. Mulligan (via Creative Commons license)

You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know that Calgary is a great food town.  It’s kind of a well-kept secret.

Except to those who’ve been paying attention…

If Calgary hasn’t been on your radar for awhile, find out what you’ve been missing – and the best ways to (re)discover it – in my piece “A Calgary Kind of Craving” in the new issue of Taste & Travel International.

You can read the full story here – or check out the complete Spring Issue of Taste & Travel on Zinio, Pocket Mags, Flipster, PressReader (free from your local library), or with the new T&T app (available on iTunes and GooglePlay).

“Big Stage” Vision at Calgary Food Tours

Karen Anderson of Calgary Food Tours
Calgary Food Tours’ Karen Anderson (Photo credit: loree photography)

Those of you who follow my wanderings may remember that the amazing culinary adventure I took to India last November was ably and attentively helmed by Karen Anderson, founder/owner/operator of Calgary Food Tours.

My own introduction to Calgary Food Tours came a couple of summers ago on a Craving Kensington walk that began in the city’s only Relais et Chateau-affiliated inn and culminated in a sampling of small batch 24-year-old single grain scotch whisky that retailed over $150. Clearly not the stuff of your run-of-the-mill tasting tour.  No surprise, then, that Calgary Food Tours, with its ever-evolving stable of carefully-curated food experiences in Calgary’s dynamic culinary neighbourhoods, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month.

Calgary Food Tours logoAnd in the spirit of “go big or go home”, Anderson is marking her 10th year with a bold proposal to expand to Edmonton and Canmore in a newly-envisioned Alberta Food Tours company.  Partnering with ATB Financial’s Alberta BoostR platform, Anderson just launched a rewards-based crowdfunding effort this week – and her campaign’s early fundraising successes have already secured her a place at the Awakened Company live pitch competition on April 15.

You can check out Karen’s vision of a bigger stage for food travellers – and find links to her rewards campaign – on her Savour It All blog.  See her schedule of upcoming tours at calgaryfoodtours.com

Text © 2016 Catherine Van Brunschot

India – From the Flipside

Golden Temple smile
Golden Temple smile

It  WAS amazing.

Two intense weeks of indelible experiences:  weaving through the holiday crowds of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk bazaar; mingling with pilgrims at the Punjab’s incomparable Golden Temple; dodging motorbikes on a high-adrenalin tasting tour of Lucknow street-food.  We met and mentored with chefs in Delhi, Amritsar, and Narenda Nagar – and took our palates on a roller-coaster ride from the heat of a masala poriyal through the creaminess of a chicken malai tikka to the delicate nuances of a palak soup.  And under the gentle guidance of Jojo Brooks, we practiced an unforgettable yoga session on a sandbank of the Ganges River.

Chandni Chowk shopper
Chandni Chowk shopper

India has so many stories to tell.  Over the coming months, I hope to sort out and share some of them.

But after one week home, the impression of India that remains strongest with me is the warm and engaging demeanor of her people. From the first winning smile of the HI Travel rep who greeted me at Indira Gandhi International airport, to my final bear-hug with Luv Jawad (tour guide extraordinaire) in a Himalayan palace, the people I encountered throughout Northern India were amiable and interested and keen to connect.

Perhaps the young Sikh man I met enroute to his grandfather’s Punjabi home and the genial grandmother who was my seatmate on an Air India flight to Delhi were simply infused with the good cheer of Diwali.  The classical dance troupe at the Amrit Rao Peshwa haveli and the attentive staff at Ananda in the Himalayas might only have been demonstrating their dedication to service.  And maybe the rickshaw wallahs of Delhi and Varanasi were just gunning for a tip.

Sumeet Nair
Sumeet Nair

But there’s no denying the true generosity offered by Sumeet Nair, his wife, Gitanjali, and his daughter, Janaki, as they opened their home to us for a day of cooking and conversation beneath the huge ficus tree in their backyard.  Nor the hospitality and inclusiveness of Prem Syal and his family and friends as they welcomed us to their spectacular Diwali celebrations.  You invited us in to share your lives and your passions, and for that I will be ever grateful.

Kudos to Karen Anderson of Calgary Food Tours for the relationships she has nurtured over the years to offer these connections.  Consider the stories to come a small tribute to you all.

Text and photos © 2015 Catherine Van Brunschot

Incomparable India

In Rajasthan, India
Photo credit: Steve Dunk

Almost 12 years ago, I made my first trip to India, with a husband and two ‘tweens in tow.  Together, we explored the princely palaces of Rajasthan, braved the bazaars of Mumbai, and breathed the mists rolling off the tea plantations of Darjeeling.  We rode camels in the desert, spotted tigers in a nature preserve, watched the sunrise kiss Everest’s storied peak, and rocked-in the New Year in Delhi. Three weeks of sensory overload showed me only a sliver of all that is India, and I knew that I needed to return.

This month I’ll be back, sans children and husband (who are decidedly jealous).  Under the guidance of Calgary Food Tours‘ Karen Anderson, I’ll be sampling Wazwan cuisine in Delhi, and Awadhi cuisine in Lucknow; learning the secrets of Chettiyar cooking in a chef’s kitchen and serving pilgrims in a community kitchen in Amritsar.  We’ll explore Hinduism on the bank of the Ganges, Buddhism at Sarnath, Sikhism at the Punjab’s Golden Temple, and Islam in the architecture of the Mughals.  We’ll practice yoga on the ghats of Varanasi and near the ashrams of Rishikesh.  While we’re there, the whole country will explode with fireworks for Diwali – and we’re invited to the party.

It promises to be amazing.

Text © 2015 Catherine Van Brunschot