In May 2017, Calgary opened the doors on the biggest Rendez-vous Canada trade show for over 40 years. Julie Baxter found a few delicious surprises there as she joined 50 UK tour operators exploring the city

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and that might be the best way to secure your next booking to Canada too.

You’ll know for Canada maple syrup and perhaps poutine (chips with cheese and gravy), and in Alberta AAA beef and Saskatoon berries are signature staples, but if we’re talking food, we need to talk about something new that is happening too. You might not expect it at the heart of Canada’s cowboy country, but Alberta’s foodie scene is moving centre stage and it’s no longer just about campfire cookouts and toasted marshmallows.

Top Spots

  1. National Music Centre: The new, architecturally stunning Studio Bell complex is home to a museum, performance hall, music centre and exhibition dedicated to Canadian music. nmc.ca

  2. Winsport: Home to the Canada Olympic Park packed with sporting nostalgia, here you can also ride a bobsleigh, zipline off the ski jump, mountain bike, take the gravity ride (Skyline Luge) and play mini golf. winsport.ca

  3. Calgary Tower: This iconic landmark of the city allows you to stand in downtown and view the majestic Rocky Mountains. Stand on the glass floor and you get a bird’s-eye view of the streets below. calgarytower.com

  4. Heritage Park: Canada’s largest living history museum, offers the chance of a total immersion in the history of Western Canada with over 180 exhibits and 50,000 historic artifacts. heritagepark.ca

  5. River Valley Park: Head to the river and visitors can explore the natural assets of the city by bike, on a hike or with a Segway tour. Hire a kayak or canoe and they will get a whole new perspective on the city too. rivervalleyadventure.com

  6. Fort Calgary: Fort Calgary National Historic Site is built on the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers and offers the chance to understand, touch and experience the birthplace of the city and its heritage. fortcalgary.com

Foodie Assets

Calgary is fast becoming a city of foodie mavericks - hip and happening food entrepreneurs with strong bonds to the province’s top-class farmers and the slow food movement. Together they are creating a culinary head of steam that now make food a key asset in the tourism mix.

Rouge Restaurant, in Calgary’s trendy Inglewood district is now on the top 100 restaurants of the world list, and that list’s strong following have brought fine diners to the city to discover more.

And more there is. Much more. From the 60 burgeoning micro breweries in the city and boutique gin distilleries to artisan bakers and on-trend chefs or award-winning cheese makers. And for those who don’t have time or, more likely, the inside knowledge, to discover the best tastes in town on their own, there is a burgeoning culinary tours product to tap into.

Insider Knowledge

Leading the pack is Alberta Food Tours with 17 tour guides running tours six days a week in peak season into four Calgary neighbourhoods; plus two foodie tours in Edmonton and one in Canmore. But there are others too. Each aims to introduce visitors to local foodies with stories to tell and some sumptuous specialities to sample.

Chefs such as Andrew Moore at contemporary bistro Ten Foot Henry’s serving largely gluten free veggie dishes, plus indulgent vintage puds. Or, Pam Fortier, a passionate baker running the well hidden Decadent Brûlée popular for its artistry and its coconut cake. Or Richard Harvey who owns Metrovino Fine Wines and has been forging connections between his passions for wine, art and literature for years and now employs one of just 330 wine masters in the world in his Calgary store.

And I could go on. A culinary tour combines tasty treats with local insights. Mine focused particularly on the designer district where commercial art galleries showcase Alberta’s thriving arts community too. It all really was a revelation.