I’ve been looking forward to the March issue of Avenue Magazine because I got to be part of its judging panel for the 8th annual restaurant awards.

Some winners were chosen by readers and others by judges. It’s a beautiful looking issue, so see if you can pick one up (free!) around the city.

The readers picked Catch as Calgary’s best restaurant and Una Pizza + Wine as the best new restaurant.

Avenue kicked off the issue with a fun reception this week featuring some of the city’s best chefs and their creations. With wine from Highlander Wine, it was a schmoozy evening to put some faces to the names in Calgary’s food scene.

Blink chef Andrew Richardson had an accent to swoon over and his wife Leslie showed why she’s a hospitality pro. They were serving a ravioli stuffed with parmesan, aged cheddar and Sylvan Star gouda.

From the chatter in the room, one of the standouts was certainly NOtaBLE chef Michael Noble’s wild mushroom risotto with rotisserie chicken. He was even nice enough to let me take a pic.

Alloy chef Rogelio Herrera came up with a lobster falafel on a tiny homemade pita. He was hilarious when he told us to just stuff it in our mouths when we attempted to eat it delicately.

Chef’s Table had a beautiful beef carpaccio with shimije mushroom.

Saint Germain put out a pepper-crusted swordfish with ratatouille on white bean mash, but their simple beignets dusted with icing sugar were the crowd pleaser.

The next two weeks is a good time to check out some of the winners too because it’s the annual Dine Out Calgary event downtown. It’s been renamed The Big Taste and features dozens of restaurants serving special multi-course menus (lunch $15/$25, dinner $25/$35, gourmet dinner $85). This is a great way to explore new places or revisit old favourites.