Downtown Calgary’s The Big Taste is back to showcase the city’s thriving culinary scene

Pull out your stretchy pants and prepare for planning, The Big Taste is back.

Starting Friday, March 2 and running until Sunday, March 11, eating enthusiasts can try out new restaurants and old favourites with set-menu meals for lunch and dinner. (There are also now Happy Hour deals to be had.)

The annual event, hosted by Downtown Calgary, celebrates Calgary’s diverse and growing culinary scene. This year it features more than 90 restaurants, from Alforno Bakery and Café to Yellow Door Bistro, each serving up prix fixe meals at a tasty price. Three-course lunches are $18 or $28 (the higher price tag is for those opting for wine pairings), three-course dinners are $28 or $40, while five-course gourmet dinners are $65 with an additional cost for wine.

(After a hiccup following Premier Rachel Notley’s ban on BC wines, Wines of British Columbia are back as a festival sponsor, so pairings will feature some of the Okanagan’s best offerings.)

Restaurants both casual and lavish are part of the festival — covering cuisines from around the world. And, above and beyond the stellar set menus, throughout the week The Big Taste is hosting a number of signature events, including a “Turf Club Pop-up” at Model Milk’s PDR, brunch at River Café, an interactive dinner at The Tastemarket by SAIT, which is training the next generation of culinary entrepreneurs, and a dinner at Foreign Concept where the chefs will “play with flavour.” Considering that executive chef Jinhee Lee was just announced as a competitor on the next season of Top Chef Canada, this should be a hot ticket.

Planning is key.

As is finding clothing that won’t hinder your ability to fully enjoy several courses of delicious food.

To help with organizing where to eat and how many meals you can fit into your schedule, The Big Taste’s website has all the menus posted for easy research. Check out the full list or filter it by meal type.

Perhaps Klein+Harris’s golden raisin and caper-stuffed pork tenderloin will grab you. Or maybe the bison short ribs with creamed leeks from Market. Over at Bar Von Der Fels, they’re offering any four items on their regular menu for $40 — a steal and a great way to explore chef Eric Hendry’s incredible dishes.

All the menus and the ability to make reservations can be found at The Big Taste.

Gwendolyn Richards is a Calgary-based food writer and the author of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers. She regularly contributes to Avenue Magazine, the Calgary Herald and FoodNetwork.ca. She has already started plotting which restaurants she’ll be hitting up during Big Taste.