We decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day a few days early this year. Why? Because earlier this month we received a mailer from SAIT’s The Highwood restaurant for 25% off. We couldn’t pass up such a good deal.
It was too late to book for Valentine’s Day, so we picked another day.
We often think about going to the Highwood but never do. Partly because we think it is always booked months ahead (more about that myth later) and partly because who plans that far ahead.
Who says mail drops don’t work? Social media – bah humbug!
We timed our visit to SAIT so we would arrive about 45 minutes early, enabling us to flaneur a bit beforehand and maybe have a bit of an adventure. We weren’t disappointed.
FYI: We love exploring post-secondary campuses wherever we travel, as we often find unexpected hidden gems.
First, we checked out The Market Place where they sell pastries, breads, prepared soups, jams, sauces and other condiments, as well there is a butcher’s counter with fresh meats. Everything was super fresh as students in the hospitality program prepare it daily.
We couldn’t resist so we picked up a loaf of Coconut Curry bread, two Raspberry Monkey Bread tarts, some braised short ribs and stewing beef.
Hearing we were headed for lunch at the Highwood, the very helpful student (no name tag) serving us was kind enough to offer to store our purchases so we could pick them up after lunch.
That’s customer service.
It was a good thing we decided to buy before lunch, as both the breads we bought were gone when we returned to pick up our treasures an hour later.
But wait that is not the best part of the story…
With still had time to wander, but thought we should head in the direction of The Highwood. Once at the building, instead of going straight up to the second floor restaurant, we took the stairs to the basement to see what we could find.
In the stairwell was a strange, intriguing wall mural that led us to believe there might be something downstairs. When we turned the corner, we were face-to-face with a big window into the Chocolate Lab where a dozen or so students, were making some funky-looking candy sculptures. We looked in for a while (being the voyeurs that we are) getting some smiles from those within and then moved on.
We proceeded along the dingy, albeit very clean, hallway that looked almost abandoned. It reminded Brenda of her University of Manitoba days, travelling through the dark and dingy tunnels from building to building to get from class to class.
Soon we found The Butchery – no baker and no candlestick maker - but it was closed. We will be back on a Thursday – it’s the only day it is open. We understand you can get some good deals on freshly butchered meats and some different cuts than you find at the grocery store.
We continued down the hall lined with old, grey mid-century lockers and found the uniform room complete with an attendant to hand out clean uniforms. I didn’t ask if I could try anything on.
Moving on, we found a huge, well-lit but barren concrete tunnel leading to the next building - we think. Or, was it a bomb shelter we joked. But alas, it was time to turn back.
Now, the REAL fun begins!
As we headed back, the door was open into Chocolate Lab so we decided to take a quick peek in as it looked like all the students were gone. We were quickly greeted and welcomed by Guy Vaugeois, SAIT’s pastry instructor.
He immediately invited us to come in and have a look around. He didn’t have to ask me twice. I was on it like a dog on a bone, snapping pictures with my camera and iPhone like a mad tourist.
Guy was most helpful spending time telling us all about the students’ current project and how the pastry program worked. And not only did he invite us to try some handmade chocolates, he quickly got us a container and filled it with chocolates insisting we take some home. He even went so far as to invite us to come back again.
You can bet we will take him up on his offer! Free chocolates – we aren’t idiots!
Sweet Lunch & Hot Tips!
Realizing it was 12:10 (our lunch reservation was for noon), we quickly thanked Guy and dashed upstairs to the Highwood for what was a lovely lunch, served by the charming Jose, who couldn’t do enough to please us. He also works at River Cafe (another great Calgary restaurant) so you might see him there.
Of course, the highlight for us were the desserts – the wonderful bread pudding and double lemon meringue. Works of art and very tasty too!
FYI: I also couldn’t resist ordering a Singapore Sling in honour of Harry Hiller’s guest blog about Singapore last week.
Here again, staff proved there is no shortage of hospitality in SAIT’s Hospitality Program. Darwin Ens, Food and Beverage Instructor was most helpful when we asked a few questions.
One of the biggest myths, we learned, is that you need to book a table weeks or months ahead. Turns out if you call the day of, you can probably get a table, maybe not if there are 8 or 10 of you, but two to four people can almost always be accommodated (best to call between 9 and 10 am).
Darin also gave us a hot tip! There is a special buffet that is only served on Thursdays, but not every Thursday due to special events, but if you have a chance, he says it is spectacular – just call ahead to make sure it is “Buffet Thursday.”
Reminder, The Highwood is only open September to April (school terms, so closed over the Christmas holidays and reading week and best to always phone first) and only Monday to Thursday (for dinner) and Monday to Friday (for lunch). There are two set seating times the a la carte lunch (11:30 or noon) and three for the five course fixe menu dinner 6:00 pm, 6:30 or 7:00 pm.
We made a commitment to explore the SAIT campus more often this year to see what other hidden gems await. And of course, to pick up some decadent treats and check out The Highwood’s “Buffet Thursday.”
If you are visiting Calgary and looking for an off-the-beaten path experiences, we recommend you book yourself lunch or dinner at The Highwood and explore SAIT’s century old campus.
Link: The Highwood