August 2013

Taste of Calgary, our city’s annual outdoor food and drink festival, is a way for visitors to sample dozens of Calgary’s restaurants in the space of a single evening of afternoon. While the “drink” portion of the fest is obviously an adults-only affair, if you steer clear of the beer garden, Taste of Calgary can be a fun annual outing for the whole family.

Our family treats eating like a sport, so Taste of Calgary is right up our alley. My kids also are generally pretty game for trying new things, which is good, because Taste of Calgary prides itself on offering a global food experience, with vendors offering Indian, Chinese, Persian, Greek, Thai, Japanese, and other cuisines from around the world.

Here’s how it works: you buy a bunch of tickets from one of the many booths on site and then redeem them for samples at one of the various vendor tents, operated by restaurants from all over Calgary. The samples generally go fro between 2 to 5 tickets (tickets cost $1 a piece) and can include things like a slider, a small portion of curry and rice, an appetizer, or a small dessert. Depending on your appetite and the length of time you hang out, an individual person can put away anywhere from three to 10 samples.

When we hit the fest on Thursday, my kids (age five and eight) were pretty keen to lead the way and choose their own samples. We often drive by Shiraz, a Persian restaurant on Centre Street, so my daughter wanted to try a chicken kabob. We got a nicely-sized portion of kabob on a little bun with a yogurt sauce and a pickle. Delicious! From there, my son wanted to try one of his all-time favourites, the perogies from the Heritage Bakery and Deli. Again, another hit!

Taste of Calgary

We continued along, sampling other savory food like the butter chicken from La Jawab, a combo from China Rose, mini-bubble teas from Bubblemania, and, to cap it all off, a truly indulgent Nutella Crepe from Crepes and Cravings. The kids loved it and my daughter, who has a seemingly bottomless stomach, could have eaten all day.

While I would recommend Taste of Calgary to anyone who loves food, there are a couple of caveats. First off, the festival offers a good variety of food, but this isn’t meant to be an overview of Calgary’s restaurant scene at large. If you’re hoping to try out some of the buzz-worthy restaurants that you’ve read about in various magazines, you’ll be disappointed. This is a sampling of mid-range restaurants offering different styles of cuisine, so don’t show up ready to taste high-end creations from the city’s celebrity chefs. Secondly, while every booth offers at least one 2-ticket sample, there is some inconsistency in the sample sizes from booth to booth. For five tickets, you may get what feels like a full meal at one booth, while another booth will offer a much smaller portion for the same price. Keep that in mind, have fun, and remember that everything will even out in the end.

Also, while I had a great time with the kids, I would like to return with some friends or just my husband to hit the beer garden. Most of the beer samples are a mere two or three tickets, meaning I’d finally get to try some brews that I haven’t been ready to buy by the pint or six-pack just yet. Either way there’s time, Taste of Calgary continues to run through Sunday at Eau Claire Festival Plaza (200 Barkley Parade SW).