The northwest sector of the city has many big chain restaurants, but only a few fine dining establishments to choose from.
I must admit that I had not included the Bears Den on my list as I had imagined it being a ways out of town.
Now that the improved Crowchild Trail goes over Stoney Trail there is only one set of lights, at Twelve Mile Coulee Road, between 24th Avenue and Bearspaw Road where the newly renovated restaurant welcomes visitors to a roomy, elegantly appointed establishment that now offers a fine dining room, a more casual bistro and a private room for 30 guests.
The Bears Den was purchased by four successful Calgary businessmen who felt the need for a place in the area that could offer good food, good wines and a tasteful atmosphere.
They were also attracted by the opportunity to hold around one hectare of land facing onto the 1A Highway, only minutes from the city.
The owners set about hiring a new management team that has done a superb job of rejuvenating the Bears Den into what has become a well-frequented restaurant for the local Bearspaw community, Calgarians from the heavily populated northwest, and also many from nearby Cochrane.
Anthony Chalmers, formerly of Catch and Rush, is the general manager. A sommelier, he has been busy choosing labels for the new wine wall that has been built behind the raised band stand and its dance floor area.
He is bringing in renowned estate owners to present wine tastings and has also organized Wine Wednesdays to let customers know what is available in his enlarged cellar.
Executive chef John Udell gained his experience in kitchens across Canada including those at Canoe, at the top of the TD Bank Tower in Toronto and part of the acclaimed Oliver & Bonacini group, the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto and the Fairmont BanffSprings Hotel.
He had been previously responsible for food at the Bears Den but left 18 months ago to help out a friend in launching the Italian Farmhouse in Bragg Creek. His passion for Italian and French cuisine is reflected in the new menu.
Udell says he buys local as much as he can and is proud of being able to offer top quality that includes Sterling Silver brand of superior beef and other meats from local farms like Ewe-Nique Lamb and Rockyview Wapiti.
The team has been completed with the hiring of Meghan Olesiuk as restaurant manager and Denisse James as event coordinator, and we can't forget barman Al Fraser, the friendly Nova Scotian who has been serving drinks from the day it opened and who proudly shows off his beefed up scotch collection.
The Bears Den was expensively built with more than 10,000 square feet of rich cherry wood panelling that gives it a rather clubby atmosphere.
Besides becoming a popular dining establishment it has attracted a number of social and corporate events to a space that can provide from 70 or more seated to 200 at standup functions.
The new owners are respected in the oil and gas industry, and they are now making their mark in presenting outstanding fine dining.
Next year, the Calgary Telus Convention Centre will celebrate its 40th anniversary.
On Tuesday, Nov. 12, Gregg Saretsky, president and CEO of WestJet and board member of the convention centre authority, will engage an audience on the importance of tourism, travel and hospitality to Calgary and our ever-expanding city, including the airport, convention centre and WestJet itself.
He will no doubt speak on the fact that the centre is operating at functional capacity and there is a serious need for more convention space.
The Telus Convention Centre is now ranked as only 10th facility in size out of Canada's 18 centres and it is estimated that economic impact due to lost business - not being able to supply enough space - from the year 2000 exceeds $250 million.