May 7, 2018

First Impression : XO Ice Cream & Waffles

Guys! New ice cream shop, XO Ice Cream & Waffles in Auburn Bay is hella goals. The branding and styling for this place is cute to the max.  Just look at the place. Check out that selfie wall, those gorgeous lights, those cups *heart eyes*. Hold my ice cream while I foam at the mouth over how adorbs this place is. 

But hold up guys, did you think I was gunna dust off my laptop to gush about the aesthetic of a new joint. Hell no, that's what instagram is for.  We went out for ice cream last week and here's how it went. 
We really lucked out on our first visit. We had the whole shop to ourselves for a good eight minutes. So I  quickly snapped these shots of all the cute little details. And there were a zillion cute little details. The lights, to the takeout containers to the rose gold baskets the cones sit in. Really nice touches. 

But on to the most important details. The current flavours : 
  • Vanilla Bean
  • Chocolate
  • Salted Caramel
  • Strawberry Rhubarb
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • Coconut
  • Pistachio
  • Blackberry Lavender
  • Vanilla Waffle
  • Mango Sorbet
  • Blood Orange Sorbet

Their website says they'll always have the classic flavours, with rotating seasonal flavours. There was also an espresso flavour not featured on the board. Not sure if that was a regular thing, or if they were just testing it out. But fyi, XO team, if you're reading this, the espresso needs to be a regular feature. It was like an undercover Vietnamese ice coffee. So it was right up my alley. A little sweet, a little bitter (but in a good way), and a little milky. 
On our first visit we got one scoop of blackberry lavender, blood orange sorbet, espresso, and their new chocolate chip waffle. On our second visit the next day, we tried the strawberry rhubarb. Yes friends, went two days in a row. Get off my back. 
Hubs and I both really enjoyed everything we got.  I don't have a big sweet tooth so it says a lot when I can enjoy an it from the first to the last lick. Nothing tasted artificial,  and it wasn't sickly sweet. I gravitate more towards fruit flavours and fruity desserts so both their blood orange and blackberry lavender flavour were right up my alley. 

On our 2nd visit, I tried the strawberry rhubarb and that definitely was my jam ya'll. It tasted like overripe strawberries in the middle of a hot as fuck Ontario summer. Ya know what I mean? That smell of strawberries is so strong, you can already taste it in your mouth. That's what it tasted like. 

It was awesome kids. 
The only downside to our visit was the service. But hold up, don't get me wrong. It's  a brand new business, the team is really young, so there was obviously some kinks to iron out. The scoop consistency could have been better and the efficiency of the ordering system could have been more streamlined. It was just painful to watch the staff function and deal with the crowd over the weekend. They also ran out of cones at one point while we were there. 
Now, with that being sad, I did bring up my concerns with the team and the owner Darren was incredibly responsive. They're in the process of hiring more staff members, a new waffle iron is coming in so they can make more cones, and they're doing they're best to train their team. Ya'll know I wasn't gunna 'bitch' about a place without first bringing it up to the team. And I was happy to hear they know what their problems are and are willing & ready to address most of my conners. I can tell they put a lot of thought and care into this business and it really shows in the details. 

They're still a brand new business but I don't doubt they'll be killing it this summer. I am looking forward to more seasonal flavours and waffle combinations. I'm pretty stocked to see an indie ice cream shop in my hood. 
On to the waffles! They were crispy on the outside but light on the inside. There was also a warm chocolate dipping sauce it came with, and that was the tits. Like not too sweet, not overpowering, but some legit good chocolate sauce. The fat kid in me was in absolute heaven! I definitely added a few lashings of my ice cream to that waffle with a few drizzles of chocolate sauce and made my own waffle sammie. I'm hoping when it's in season they'll do a nice strawberry shortcake kinda combo. Or I'll have to walk in with my own strawberries and life hack it myself. 
So let's recap: ice cream good, service was green, shop was very cute, owners seem like decent human beings. What's not to love? Already looking forward to my next visit! 

Happy Eating! 

XO Ice cream & Waffles
808, 100 Auburn Meadows Drive Southeast
Auburn Bay, AB

April 30, 2018

Alberta's First Nordic Spa

I'll be the first to tell you I am a self proclaimed expert when it comes to being a lazy butt, and a day at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa (KNS)  is where that expertise comes in handy. 

I was over the moon, like Tom Cruise jumping on a couch excited when I found out Alberta was finally getting a Nordic Spa! What the heck took ya'll so long? I've been a huge fan of the Scandinavian Spa in Blue Mountain . I'm  also pretty obsessed  with the whole hot/cold water therapy thanks to my regular visits to Body Blitz Spa when I was in Ontario.  
So lets cut to the chase, KNS opened up early March and we were here mid April. The entire facility isn't quite open yet.  They've broken up their opening into two phases.  Phase 1 (currently open) includes:

  • Three outdoor pools (hot, warm and cold) 
  • Main lodge
  • Two Trees Bistro
  • Banya sauna
  • Finnish sauna
  • Alchemist and Eucalyptus steam cabin
  • Two barrel saunas

The entire spa is 50,000 sq ft of indoor/outdoor space and is an 18+ facility.  
When you first walk in, you walk through the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge - which is actually pretty gorgeous btw.   After that, you walk through a little narrow bridge into the lobby of the spa. Some parts of the spa still have that "under construction" vibe. We got there around 11am on a Saturday morning and it was pretty quiet and calm when we walked in. 
The main lobby and check in counter consists of a tiny merchandise corner with some cute throw pillows, Lululemon gear, and all that kinda jazz. There is also a cafe/bistro with a bar and a bunch of lounge stations. Spa passes are a flat daily fee of $70. 

The bistro was hella cute ya'll. It was decked out in lush textures and giant comfy couches. Ugghhhh like you're killing me. This place was right out of my winter goals Pinterest board. The tartan and the throws were so inviting. Too bad it was swamped on our way out so we didn't get to grab a bite to eat. I would have loved sitting around in my robe (which is totes appropriate here) and enjoy a hot chocolate or coffee.  
After checking in and receiving your robe, slippers and locker key (the blue bracelet), you head downstairs to the change room. I immediately noticed how super clean and well maintained the change rooms are. It just set the tone for an awesome first impression. 

The change room is equipped with showers (shampoo and conditioner provided), and a few vanities set up with curling irons and blow dryers to freshen up.  If I was being really picky, I would have really liked it if they went the extra mile and offered q-tips, cotton swabs, body lotion and hair ties. I love it when a spa goes above and beyond to meet your needs.  I've always appreciated this service at other establishments. And lets get real here, I can't see it costing much to offer these little goodies, but it goes a long way and adds to that super pampered feeling. 
By the way, don't give me shit for the quality of these pics. I completely ignored the "no picture/cell phone" signs and snuck these shots in for you guys. I know, I'm a badass! 

Eventually, a very nice gentlemen at the desk did politely tell me to put my phone away. Service by the way, from the staff during our entire visit was fantastic. Which is saying a lot cause service is always one of those kinks that need to be ironed out when a business first opens. 

The first pool is the warm pool. Then the furthest one is the hot pool and the one hidden behind the tree is the cold pool.  Way in the back is an exfoliation cabin. There were also a couple fire pits and "chill" zones too. I absolutely loved the aroma of burning wood, floating through the air. Nice touch, KNS! 
But onto the things that bugged me the most. 

Sorry fam. You knew this was coming. 

First, I wish there were more clear signs of which pool was what. I also wish there were more signs or an easier way to know how to complete the water therapy circuit. IMHO, to thoroughly enjoy a Nordic spa, there is a specific order (hot cold, hot cold) and a few trips into the steam/sauna rooms that is always recommended. They had a few paper signs here and there but nothing concrete that I could reference, not even a laminated piece of paper I could carry with me. Again, it's the little details they missed the ball on.  
Next up, the noise. It was so damn loud. They asked for no cellphones for privacy and to keep ambience at the spa but they did nothing about the yapping mouths all around us. There were families yelling across pools and groups of girls giggling and cackling with each other. At the pool, in the sauna, at the steam room, it was everywhere. How is a girl suppose to chill out if she has to listen to you talk about your bridesmaid dress fitting?! It was absolutely horrible, I felt like I paid 70 bucks to sit at the public pool at the YWCA. Not cool. 

I am happy to say when I brought up these concerns to the KNS team, I was told by the Spa Director Phase 2, (planned to be open by summer) will include a "Reflection Pool, Salt Water Pool and Relaxation Building. This area will be coined our “Reflection Area” and will encourage our visitors to quietly reflect, relax and enjoy." I was pretty stoked to hear this. Again, going back to my comment about service, top notch. My concerns were addressed right away. 

I also found there wasn't enough hooks to hang up your robes. There were a little less than 50 hooks (my buddy Brian counted) in the whole place and people were just throwing their robes and wet towels everywhere. It was worse than a Good Life Fitness locker room. I would have loved to sit and chill around the fire pit but people were using the chairs to hold their robes & towels. They were essentially just hanging them off the hammock hooks, and putting them on the benches by the sauna cause there was no where else to put them. At one point, the four of us shared one hook for all our robes - and towels! 

In all honestly, I feel like little details, like this one, was overlooked so they could open sooner in the season. Which I am totally cool with if these issues are non-existent on my next visit. With any new business, things are bound to be rocky in the beginning, none of these issues turned me off enough to never come back.
One of the highlights of our visit was the quick nap I got in one of the heated hammocks. Ya'll, I crawled in as an ugly wrinkled caterpillar and emerged as a beautiful well rested butterfly. It was hella dope ya'll.  I forgot to mention, it started to straight up snow during our visit. Like huge chunks of snow falling from the sky.  What a magical experience to be warm and cozy but still get to watch the gorgeous snow falling amongst the mountain backdrop. I felt like I was living inside a Netflix Christmas special. The moment was absolutely remarkable.  I loved the juxtaposition of being toasty and warm, but also feeling little droplets of ice on your face. 

That's another perk of KNS, it's beautifully situated amongst the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. How can you go wrong with that view? That's essentially the main reason that got me excited to visit and will probably be the reason that gets me going back. They really nailed the location.  

Besides the typical pool and saunas they also had an Exfoliation Cabin. But let's get real, it just got too loud in there for me, so I booted it out of there as fast as I could. I did walk out of there feeling like the 100 emoji. My skin was feeling like butter. 
So, over all,  there are a few kinks to work out - understandably for such a new establishment. But there is so much potential, and they pretty much nailed it on the important things! Rumour has it they're also looking to bring this concept to Edmonton. I'm looking forward to seeing the 2nd phase roll out. Finally, for someone who doesn't ski, snowboard, or hike (like me) - this is the perfect mountain activity to partake in! 

We're headed out there for Mother's Day brunch in a few weeks and I'm hoping they'll have some updates on Phase 2.  Peep my instagram for a sneak peek.

April 27, 2018


Sup gang! How's it going? It's been about a minute since I dusted off this blog. Actually its been about 643,680 minutes - just a rough estimate though. 

Just wanted to jump back on here and let you know:

1. I'm still alive 
2. I'm still living in Calgary
3. No, I'm not pregnant
4. I'm coming back to the blog

I'm going back to my roots. I want to start writing about the things I love again. I want to go back to where it all began. Remember when I was just shooting the shit with you guys? Like way back in the beginning. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. And I forgot how therapeutic it was for me. 

While we're all here (all three of you readers) Here's a bit of a blog/life update. 

Don't worry guys, I'm still eating well. See above for picture evidence. Just cause I'm not writing about it, doesn't mean I'm not eating my feelings anymore. 

But besides that, I added a new tab, do you see it up there? It's called "The Real Chanry" this is where I'll be putting my non food related articles. I'll wait here while you scroll up to check. On mobile? Sorry it won't be there.

I'll be real with you, as much as I'm still a major foodie - I don't want to talk about it all the time anymore.


Shocking, I know!

But I've actually developed other interests in the past five years. And life in general has completely changed since I started The Hungry Gnome five years ago. Like, I got me a husband and I'm a fur mom to two cats! 
I need an outlet where I can just talk about shit. Things I love, things I hate, just a place where I can tell my stories - that's not just food. I've realized I love the story aspect of social media, and the connections, and relationships you can build.  For the longest time, I just didn't know if blogging was the right outlet for the kind of stories I wanted to tell. 

But after a lot of thinking, I realized I wanted to do this for me. I wanted to go back to writing for me. Hope you'll stick around for that content. If not, thanks for at least reading up to this part.  

Outside of food, I've pretty much turned into a crazy plant lady.  If you wanna talk plants, feel free to slide into my dm's. Just don't leave a comment here if you want a speedy reply. Imma be real with you - I don't check. But I'm attached to my phone 24/7 so feel free to shoot me a DM on my socials (link on the sidebar) or here  (if you're on mobile and you're lazy as fuck to check) 
We've (the ball and chain and I) have spent the last year or so doing lots of traveling. From San Francisco to Singapore - we've had some really amazing trips and I'm looking forward to writing about it all. (If I'm not too lazy to dig up all the pictures and create the content. #RealTalk). But we've got some awesome trips planned this year too so I'll definitely be writing about that. 
I also started my own business this year. 

I know, fucken crazy right?!

I was in a rough spot last year and took some time to really focus on what made me get up in the mornings. It was food, and writing, and talking to people, and just being creative. So I took the leap and started my own social media marketing group focused on small food businesses. Feel free to check in/creep me here & here.  It's been a blast working with some of my favourite peeps back in Hamilton again. Yes, I'm taking clients in Calgary and Hamilton. 

You'll spot me in Hamilton every few months from now on. So holla when you see me on the streets. But like, in a nice way -k?
Anyways, I think that's it. Hopefully you'll stick around during this new chapter. No hard feelings if you don't.  

Oh, and all the fur babes are doing great. Thanks for asking.