The North Comes Market

The patio at Market, 718 17th Avenue, SW, looks over at Western Canada High School

Northern Canada is one of the most vast, most barren spaces on this planet. Miles and miles (I guess that would be kilometres and kilometres) of remote riverbanks, treeless tundra, dusty and barren rocky roads, hot summers filled with endless light, and never-ending night in the depths of winter.

For a lot of the year, it can be a very frigid place, with temperatures dropping—and holding—into the range of -40 to -50 C (for you Americans, it’s about the same in Fahrenheit, which means at that point it doesn’t matter.  It’s bloody cold). It can also heat up, with spikes in temps at the height of the summer in the  mid to high 20's and, on occasion, even higher than that (that's in the 80+ range in F).

And although it can be a rugged, unforgiving, difficult, harsh and cold part of the planet, it’s also home to some of the most excellent personalities with the warmest hearts you’ll ever meet.

Through a past career, I had the opportunity to visit the Northwest Territories a good handful of times.  Hosted by the local elected official, I put my toe in the Arctic Ocean on the shore at Tuktoyaktuk; I spent the day with the belly dancing (former) mayor of Hay River (I cannot attest to her sideline personally) and then played golf at 11 pm, racing along the course in a cart to keep the black flies off; I met the Nigerian priest who led mass in the Igloo church in Inuvik; I helped clean out the fire house in Tsiighetchic with one of the volunteers, an Israeli American artist living and painting there, who then treated us to caribou chili as we waited for the ferry--the only mode of transport back to the mainland--to be fixed; I have been hosted by quite a few people who indulged me by taking me out of the man made light to view amazing displays of the Aurora Borealis, and I drove across a frozen lake to meet the Snow King in Yellowknife (maybe someday I’ll write about all of this in another space….).

I also met my friend Sheila and her husband Dave.

I don't usually post photos of my dining companions, but I really wanted to introduce you to these fine people, Dave and Sheila.

They’re typical Yellowknifers—they don’t come from there (does anyone?), but they’ve taken to the northern life and all it offers and they’ve given back to it too (which is a large part of how and why has and most likely will be forever the place it is.  I get the sense that once you commit to the communities up there, the communities are there for you too).

And as far as hospitality goes, they have been the most welcoming northerners I’ve had the fortune to meet. They hosted me at their home almost every time I was up there, and took the time and care to make sure I felt warmly welcomed, no matter what was going on in their lives at the time.

Back to 17th Avenue, SW.  Guess who’s in town?

Sheila and Dave and I met up at Market, a place I’ve been holding out on until the tail end of my trek.  It’s been recognized as one of the best in the city—Calgary’s Restaurant of the year in 2015, in the top 50 across Canada the year before, and a finalist in three categories (best overall, best service, and best chef) just this past year. And this year, they were awarded Third Best Overall Restaurant in Calgary...Congrats to them...and it works for me!

We scored a table on the patio and, once our drinks were ordered, quickly got down to catching up on all we had missed over the last decade (I haven’t seen them since I left the job that required an occasional trip up north—I think it was my favourite road trip).  Job changes, a new grandchild (theirs, not mine), local stories and histories—the conversation flowed along with the wine, and it was as if no time had passed at all.

Over steak tartare (Sheila’s) and Dave's fish, which I will get wrong but will say halibut with carrots and bok choy and a lemon pine nut butter, and my delicious chicken with spinach spaetzle, we laughed and reflected and toasted each other…and promised not to let the miles come between us.

The meal was a perfect complement to a perfect evening, finished off with in-house-made chocolates (which we ate so fast we forgot to grab a photo), followed by a stroll down to everybody’s favourite ice cream store (if you've been reading this blog, you know the one I mean).

I think that means I may have to set my sights north for a renewal visit. And while I’ve had the opportunity to experience the Great White North in all four seasons and at least eight different months, I think I’ll wait until that part of the world passes through the depths of winter before I make that return trip.  

And if that happens, and I think it will—I know I'll be met with warmth, welcome, open arms and more stories of life and where it takes us....and there will most likely be a post in a new blog, because I can guarantee it will be an adventure! (I mean, how can you resist learning about the Raven as road kill?? 😏)

This post is dedicated to Rory, Sheila and Dave’s trusty dog and family member, who became ill while they were in Calgary.  Sadly, he passed away before they had a chance to get home to say goodbye to him. But it’s clear to me that he meant the world to them, as well as to the many Yellowknifers who had the fortune to know him.  He was well taken care-of right to the end, and well-loved, and he will be missed.