We hit the annual Taste of Calgary festival on Aug. 9 for the first time. I was ready for an onslaught of chain restaurants but was happy to see lots of independent places serving up samples.
It was really hot out, but the festival was laid out quite well in Eau Claire, with lots of room for people to mill around, and lots of tables and chairs to take a rest under some shade.
Lots of friends have recommended Ruan Thai to me but I just haven’t had time to check it out. Their pad thai was promising, without any of that goopy red ketchupy sauce.
We tried their top sirloin steak, which turned out to be a thick, chewy piece of beef on a piece of ciabatta bread. But they then ladled garlic butter on top of everything, which made it messy and oily to eat with our hands.
We didn’t know Calgary had an oyster bar, so we gravitated towards The Embarcardero’s stand, where they were shucking fresh Malpeque and Cortes Island oysters.
Two oysters for three tickets ($2.25) was a pretty good deal, I thought. We tried the Cortes Island ones which were good and meaty with a bit of metallic aftertaste. I’m sure we’ll be trying out the restaurant next time we get an oyster craving.
The festival also had a drinks section, featuring microbreweries and samples from local wine stores, which was a cool addition.
That same weekend, we also checked out the Korean Day Festival in Shaw Millennium Park downtown.
We caught some Korean drummers on stage, but most of the festivities felt like it was more for the Korean community to catch up with each other, and for kids to jump in bouncy castles and play sports. However, we did not feel unwelcome — especially in the food tent.
I always admire volunteers at summer festivals; they had three grills going full-blast cooking bulgogi beef.
The volunteers there enthusiastically piled our plates high with the bulgogi, rice and kimchee. It was a ridiculous amount of food for $10, and could have been enough to split between four people.
Both festivals are annual events, so if you’re around, check them out next year.