Not a fan of the herb, but the place is fantastic.....

...or(subtitle)...sometimes, it takes a blog.....

Cilantro, 338 17th Avenue SW, is a must if you're eating your way across the Red Mile; reservations recommended!

On the first  week of my 17x17x17 food quest, in my very first post, I asked people to tell me where I needed to go (you know what I mean)—what places were must-sees and must-dos as I ate and drank my way across the Red Mile from the first day of summer to Labour Day.

And the one thing I heard over and over was that no trek would be complete without a visit to the patio at Cilantro.

I gave it a shot on Canada Day, when Gabby and I headed over there to grab a bite. But the weather had gone from hot and sunny to wet and cool in a very short afternoon, so the patio was out. 

We still went and we sat in the dining room, and we had a lovely meal—a really interesting ricotta appetizer with homemade granola made from figs and lemon, served with a curious side of mustard melon--whatever that was.  

Next we both had salads: blackened chicken for Gab and a great blue cheese and pancetta salad for me, which they very kindly let me switch the greens on—I have spinach and arugula most days for lunch, so I really didn’t want them for dinner and I really just wanted field greens—with a nice dressing; and we shared a flatbread with pear and gorgonzola cheese (which, honestly, to me, was better cold the next day). 

Delicious Canada Day dinner

So, for almost two months, I’ve been thinking about that patio.  And yes, I’ve been to some other ones on the Red Mile, but Cilantro stayed in the back of my mind the entire summer.  

And here we are at the tail end, and it’s come together.

Cindy has been a friend of mine for more than 30 years; she’s one of the first people I met when I moved to Calgary.  And while we both moved on to our careers and lives and lost track of each other for a good chunk of the time in the middle, we were brought back together again through social media (how did we ever get by without it?).  She was the first one to tell me I had to try out the Cilantro patio, so we finally managed to coordinate our schedules and we met at the patio on Friday evening, just about one week short of the end of the quest.

The patio, at last.

Considering that we hadn’t actually seen each other in, we guessed but couldn’t be sure, at least 20 years—maybe even more, it was a surprise that we basically picked up where we left off, as if the time had never passed.  Sure, we had a lot of fill-in to do, but that just added to the depth of our friendship.

We shared a fantastic bottle of wine, some mushroom soup which Cindy had raved about (she was right), and then we shared a pizza.

We also shared our lives with each other, which is something that is sometimes hard to do—especially when so much water has passed under your bridge—impossible to cover everything in just a few hours. So we’ll just have to do it again—and sooner.

In the meantime, Cindy told me about how she spent her summer vacation, driving—alone, from Calgary to Ontario (I knew that she had done this because she chronicled bits and pieces on FB).  But photos and posts only give you the external report—they can’t really reflect what’s going on inside, when you spend days with yourself, with just the radio and the road for company.

Cindy discovered Moose Jaw (birthplace of Art Linkletter—it’s ok if you don’t know who that is), with its tunnels (where the Chinese railway workers lived and maybe Al Capone hid bootleg) and old houses and small-town Main Street; she stayed in a haunted hotel room (jury’s still out on that) at the Ft. Garry (one of the original railway hotels) in Winnipeg; she visited the Terry Fox memorial in Thunder Bay (Americans, learn about this man—I’ve put in a link so you can find out who he was and what he did); she stayed at small hotels and big ones, lakefront cabins and family homes; she hit a high school reunion (always interesting); spent some time with her family, and perhaps, most importantly, spent some time with herself.

I think solo road trips are a real place for personal growth…especially when you do the drive across Canada.  It’s easy in the sense that it’s pretty straightforward for most of it (it’s also just pretty straight for a lot of it—they’re not kidding when they say “you can watch your dog run away…for days” in Saskatchewan and parts of Manitoba), so there’s lots of time to daydream and to let your mind drift a bit.  There’s forced interaction with strangers, which I don’t think is a bad thing; there’s meeting new people, and connecting with those you have known most or all your life—always in a different way than the time(s) before. There’s finding something out something new about them, and about yourself…

Anyway, back to the patio.  It's all everyone said and more.  A nice high wall lets in light and a level of street sound that's not too overwhelming.  The seating is comfortable and comfortably spaced.  The open air is fresh and the space is just really, really relaxing and enjoyable.

(That's not to say the dining room isn't pleasant--it's really quite nice; it's just that when you live in the Great White North, any night you can dine on a patio is a good night).

As we took the last sips of our bottle of Chilean Cabernet (note to self: ask to see the wine cellar next time; note to everyone else: there are 17 pages of wine, people--trust your server to make suggestions based on your likes), Cindy and I decided we could not let so much time pass before we see each other again, and I’m pretty sure we’ll stick to that.  We also talked about ideas for launching a new blog (more on that before this one ends) and I know that Cindy will be a part of that when it comes together.