July 6, 2020

Put on your Stampede duds and have a backyard feast

Here are some rootin’ tootin’ takeout food ideas from UCalgary alumni-run businesses

COVID-19 may have shut down the chutes to Stampede 2020 but some of those midway treats — yes, we’re talkin’ mini-doughnuts and pancake breakfasts — are going ahead in abridged forms.

If a mini-doughnut or pancake drive-through isn’t your thing, design your own backyard bash while supporting local alumni-run businesses who have been in a precarious spot since March. According to a survey conducted by Restaurants Canada in late March, as many as 95,000 food service jobs were lost in Alberta with the pandemic causing permanent closures of more than a few of our favourites.

Where you spend your money matters — it always has. But how and where has become as much a moral as a consumer question. In the spirit of saving a generation of small, independent businesses, we’ve designed a mock takeout menu, beginning with appetizers.

Not only can you source a vast selection of Quebec cheeses (think 14 Arpents, Cheval Noir and Riopelle), fancy crackers, olives, cured meats and anything else you may desire to add to a charcuterie platter at Bridgeland Market & Deli, but owner/alumnus Yousef Traya, BCR’01, also suggests scooping up a few daily Grab-n-Go meals, homemade cakes, pies, tarts, crisps and cookies as well as Tru Büch Kombucha, another alumni creation thanks to Louisa Ferrel, BComm’04. You could also round out this platter with a bag or two of mini-doughnuts that you can pick up on July 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 — from Stampede Park, from noon until 9 p.m. (advance tickets are required).

If you want something burly for a main course, splurge on a tasty steak or a seafood meal, delivered to your door, courtesy of Bessie Box. Founded by three UCalgary alumni — Alex Leakos, BSc (Eng)’16; Shanika Abeysinghe, BA’16; and Spencer Kerber, BSc (Eng)’16 — Bessie Box works with Alberta farmers and B.C. fishers to deliver grass-finished New York steaks and Maui ribs, as well as seafood, to customers’ front doors for free. If you buy a Classic Bessie Box, type “UCalgary” in to the note section, and they’ll add a “few extras, just for you,” promises Abeysinghe.

Bessie Box delivers to your door

Bessie Box delivers meat and seafood to your door

Not that we think Bessie’s steak or seafood need a rub, but, if that’s your preference, consider the Silk Road Spice Merchant, where you can buy a jar of Marrakesh Salmon Seasoning, South Coast Jerk Spice or some rootin' tootin’ Wild West concoctions. Founded by alumni Colin Leach, BA’98, and Kelci Hind, BN’02, you can order online, but their Inglewood shop is set to open any day now.  

Other restaurants with alumni connections include Minas Brazilian Steakhouse, owned by Carolina Lopez, MEDes’14, who points to the group-takeout menu for 10 or more hungry folk: barbecue meats, rice, salad and two other tasty morsels are yours for $14 a person. Minas also has small, medium and large appetizer trays to go. Two of the three founders behind Wise & Wright, another local restaurant, are also grads. We bow to you, Boris and Pardeep, for your punchy ahi poke tuna salad and your colossal coconut chicken bowl.

If you’re planning a party and want to scoop up some salads, dips, desserts and a few loaves of the heartiest sourdough in town, look no further than Citizen Sidewalk. Owned by Aviv Fried, BSc (Eng)’08, and Michal Lavi, BSc’04,  consider ordering a big party platter of shakshuka (a zippy Mediterranean tomato and chili stew kept honest with feta cheese, herbs and crunchy peppers), with a chunk of sourdough on the side. Another crowd-pleaser is the silky pepper goat cheese dip, as well as its companion that features smoky eggplant.

Spicy Shaksuka makes a great party platter

Sometimes, a coffee is just a coffee. And, sometimes, it can be a creative rescue line and a bet on the future, says Rob Oppenheim, BA’01, one of the three partners (the nameless one) behind Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters. After watching their sales plummet 95 per cent in March due COVID-19, the local coffee chain was forced to lay off staff when it shuttered two of the six cafes that operated in Calgary (five are now back in business). Overhauling the software behind its home-delivery system, the local coffee-roaster chain now offers same-day delivery, “one of the few in North America,” adds Oppenheim. Buy $40 worth of beans and delivery is free. Want to add some Hoopla Donuts to that order? That will set you back $5, but, if you’re planning a big shindig, you can order up to 10 dozen of the 15 flavours on offer. The most popular? Crème Brulee, London Fog and maple glazed. 

Sacks of Phil & Sebastian coffee

If donuts — mini or otherwise — are not your thing, consider a fancy macaroon tower or an elaborate dessert table created by Swirl Custom Cakes & Desserts. Alumna Lynnette MacDonald, BN’10, explains that all Swirl cakes are custom orders that feature one of 18 signature flavours, from almond or chili chocolate to pumpkin apple, red velvet, carrot and more. The litany of dreamy icing and filling flavours is even more extensive, adds MacDonald, pointing out that eggs, real butter and fresh fruit — plus an artistic eye — are what’s behind these gastronomic mind-blowers. Can’t get enough of the sweet stuff? Another local bakery operated by alumnae is Crave Cupcakes, which offers custom cakes and also a storefront full of dainty delectables.

When it comes to party beverages, there is no shortage of local breweries run by UCalgary alumni that pull their own weight. Order some growlers or a variety of cases from CRAFT Beer Market, Minhas Micro Brewery,Village or Rapid Ascent and you’ll be supporting alumni. Or, for something unusual, buy a bottle of artisanal rum from Tomas Romero, BSc’04, from Romero Distillery Co., part of a growing Canadian craft-rum market.

We know not everyone has the money or capacity right now to be choosy about what to buy and from whom. But you, being a patron of the University of Calgary, know perhaps better than anyone how our choices add up. We are all just trying to use our money and time to support the world we want — and a city full of innovative culinary options run by UCalgary entrepreneurs is one we thought you may treasure.

Hats off to creating your own midway smorg!

Community spirit cannot be cancelled — UCalgary at the Calgary Stampede

UCalgary is a proud partner with the Calgary Stampede. Together, we are offering many ways to get your fix of cowboy culture, fairground food and community connection. Learn more.