A taste of Alloy's prawns with rocoto pepper and achiote, Fairwinds minted yogurt, poppy seeds and compressed watermelon. 

Calgary hotspots off the beaten path

A hidden restaurant and a locals' Italian market
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On our way back in from Banff, my friend Jessie took me to a super hidden hotspot called Alloy. If you didn't know what you were looking for, you'd totally miss it; the restaurant is a converted office building in the middle of nowhere. And the building itself is small and understated from the outside. (If you are from Oahu, the exterior will remind you a little of Lanakila Pacific on Bates Street.)

I actually couldn't see the signage from the road, so this photo is a little inaccurate in making it look like it's easy to see.

It's very remote but chef/owner Rogelio Herrera must be doing something right, since the restaurant has been in business for 10 years and is always full. Since it's outside of downtown, there is lots of free, ample parking.

Herrera invited us to lunch and created a tasting menu for the occasion. (Neither of them knew this, but that day was my birthday, so that was really a treat.) I'm going to show you the dishes, which I believe were slightly reduced in size so we could taste more, but I won't show the prices since I don't want to confuse you over the real thing. These are all tastes of dishes that are on the lunch menu. Also, Herrera posts photos of his dishes on his Instagram from directly overhead, which looks beautiful on his feed but I couldn't replicate it well, so these will just be close ups. 

Nothing like a champagne toast to start lunch.
Ahi tuna tartare with yam crisps, soy reduction, cucumber vinaigrette, avocado puree and jalapenos. Don't think of it as poke; this is a beautiful tartare
with unique, vibrant flavors and textures.
This lobster and broccolini tempura with aioli ended up being one of our favorites! It was beautifully crunchy and not greasy, nicely spiced and, of course, a little decadent.
Always showing off that Alberta beef: short rib ragout, black pepper fettuccini, spinach and cottage cheese. Since this pasta is homemade, the dish was
delicate and melted away in our mouths, leaving that beefy essence and just a touch of creaminess. 
Everything that we tried was fabulous, but if you can't try it all, at least eat local beef while in Canada. Have I emphasized that enough? This is grilled
Alberta beef striploin, arancini, and brie fondue, with broccolini leaves that help cut the richness of the dish.
Aiyah too bright! I was trying to get this shot before the gelato melted. Flourless chocolate cake, chocolate macaroon, chocolate gelato & dulce de leche. 
I loved that it sounded super sweet but was actually very balanced.
Mahalo to Rogelio Herrera and Jessie Cayabo for such a memorable meal!

Alloy Restaurant
220 – 42 Ave. SE
Calgary, Alberta T2G 1Y4
403-287-9255

 

Gino with his baby picture in the store!

From there, we visited one of Jessie's clients, the Italian Centre Shop. You may have seen Italian grocery stores and markets in America, but I don't think you've ever seen an emporium like this one! It's a 60-year-old chain in Alberta with three stores in Edmonton, and now one in Calgary. 

General Manager Gino Marghella took me for a tour of the store, which imports products directly from Italy, and any other parts of Europe. You'll also find some local items, like the Alberta beef on display (of course). But if you can't get to Europe and want authentic flavors — whether you're cooking for yourself or just want grab-and-go — Italian Centre Shop is the place to go. It's also a gathering place for Italian sports fans on soccer game days, as you'll see them gathered in the cafe to watch the big screen broadcasting whatever big European sporting event is on.

The place is so huge and has so much going on that I can't possibly show you everything in one blog post. I regret not taking video to capture this store's offerings better ... but I guess that means I have to go back. Make no mistake, I went crazy shopping after my tour.

One of the main features is their great wall of cheese. This is all real Italian cheese, and it's specially selected for the store. 
The center of the store is a gigantic deli counter, where customers get their cheeses and meats and condiments to order. They have a huge variety of nuts,
olives, peppers, and more. I got to try freshly cured olives for the first time here, and now I understand what the flavor and texture is supposed to be.
I can't ever eat canned olives again.
Just a small part of the huge meat section at the deli counter.
And then, Marghella made me a charcuterie board! We snacked on a couple of pieces, then he vacuum packed it for my plane ride home ... quite
possibly the best plane snack I've ever had.
Mr. Samarelli is an olive vendor and was offering samples of his olive oils and spreads. If the bottle weren't so heavy, I probably would have brought some
oil back. His olive oil was rich, bright and slightly peppery, with such beautiful balance that you couldn't help but feel like you were picnicking on the 
Italian countryside. Of course, his rustic Italian accent helped a lot. 
In the cafe area of the store, they make pizzas to order. The best way to judge a pizza is with a margherita style, right? I loved the way this crust was thin
but chewy, and the cheese had a nice bit of saltiness to contrast with the tomato sauce.

 

The Italian style plate lunch: tender, silky veal piccata with parmesan potatoes and creamy pesto cauliflower. So good! 
The desserts are as beautiful as the ones you see in European bakeries. (I was too full to have any!)
I couldn't leave without having an Italian latte, however. And since we were in Canada, of course they had to make Canadian bear foam! 

Italian Centre Shop Calgary
9919 Fairmont Dr. SE
Calgary, Alberta  T2J 0S3
403-238-4869

 

To see all of my photos from this trip, click here. Just one more blog post to go: One last modern hotspot!