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August 01, 2008

Tastes great, less filling

Bite-sized servings and mini-glasses on the menu at annual Taste of Calgary fest

Michelle Lindstrom

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If you have trouble making decisions and shelling out a lot of dough, sample-sized fun is on its way for you—and the other million or so Calgarians around. Eau Claire’s Festival Plaza plays host once again to the Taste of Calgary, running August 7 through 10 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily—rain or shine. If the sky spews some nasty precipitation, Dave Van Aalst of Dragonfly Promotions Inc. (the festival producer), says with a shade of sarcastic city experience: “We do have umbrellas, tents and so forth, but we all know it will be four beautiful days.”

This year has 30 participating Calgary restaurants among 46 booths on the roster, providing hungry and thirsty event-goers tastes from around the world and concoctions shaken and stirred 22 different ways from local beverage companies. “The festival is an opportunity for people to find some new food and beverage experiences and actually sample their menus before they visit the restaurants, or order a new, unique beverage,” says Van Aalst. “The atmosphere—Calgary’s biggest kitchen party ever—has become a gathering place for lunch or dinner and a cultural experience right in the heart of the city.”

The type of food available ranges from Thai Panang curry to butter chicken, while beverages include smoothies, specialty coffees, wines—and for those 18 and over—more than 40 beers from local and international craft brewers and some fruitier alcoholic options such as Pearl Pomegranate Martinis. Luckily for closet sweet tooths in the crowd, the all-time favourites will be present, including tiramasu, rum cake with caramel sauce and a traditional brownie sundae.

But, multi-tasking Calgarians, do not fret—people-watching and piling festival food on your plate are not the only entertainment options available to you over the four-day affair. “The Starbucks Stage is centrally located in the beverage area (ID required), but it is very family (friendly) and children are allowed in with their parents,” Van Aalst says. “Food is everywhere and can be easily brought in to the beverage area.” Miles Jackson, The Matt Blass Connection, Texas Twister and the Wax Poets are among musical talent to entertain on the Starbucks stage, running in conjunction with the overall event’s schedule. The hefty playlist will feature country, blues, rock, world and mainstream styles of music played live from local bands, Van Aalst explains, most with recording contracts already.

Admission to the grounds and musical entertainment is free while food tickets are valued at $1 apiece. One to four tickets is the range of cost for one sample-sized food or beverage item at the tasty outdoor fest. You can choose your own adventure by creating a personalized buffet, which can be consumed on the go or while sitting down in the common area, to enjoy your bite-sized fare all at once. “Taste of Calgary is a great way to learn about some of Calgary’s most interesting restaurants, entertainers and marketplace-style vendors,” Van Aalst says. “It is a chance to sample the city all in on location—in the city’s beautiful downtown, right next to the river and pathway system.”

Lucky condo dwellers at the Princeton Grand, Eau Claire Estates, Point on the Bow, Churchill Estates and other Eau Claire area addresses are lucky enough to be able to come and go from the Taste of Calgary festival without the worry of parking or a commute. Meanwhile, those not situated within walking distance of the Festival Plaza in Eau Claire, can find parking underground at Eau Claire for toonie a day, suggests Van Aalst, or even better—take the C-Train, which stops only a few blocks away.

The Boys and Girls Clubs (Calgary Marlborough Teen Resource Centre), Raise a Reader Program, Calgary Chinese Services Association and the Calgary Saracens athletic club are organizations benefiting from this year’s Taste of Calgary. Tickets are available at the event or in advance (in increments of 100 or more). To find out more information about the event check out http://www.tasetofcalgary.com.

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