Margie Hope makes people feel at home around the table

The old farmhouse that stands on the corner of what is now 33rd Avenue and 21st Street S.W. in Marda Loop has been there since 1912, when it looked out over vast fields of farmland.

It sat on the outskirts of the city at the time, where the streetcar looped back to downtown. The house was home to a Calgary family until the 1980s, when it was used as a urologist's office before being transformed into one of the city's first coffee shops, Kaffa Coffee and Salsa House, which occupied the space for twenty years.

It was empty for almost five years, until the summer of 2014. That's when Margie Hope parked her Blamwich! food truck and took over the empty house, which is just down the street from her own.

Hope has been in the business of feeding people since opening her first coffee shop in Field, B.C., back in 1987, when she was in her twenties. She has gone from coffee shop to diner to caterer to food truck, and decided to turn the old house back into a gathering place with a focus on fresh, made-from-scratch food.

And the Farmer's House Kitchen & General Store was born.

The rooms remain the same: trimmed with original wood, decked out with cabinetry and a mantle in what was once the dining room. It's now adorned with antiques from Hope's 90-year-old-mother's kitchen; her great-grandmother's wood bowl hangs between two windows, and a tap from the still her father kept in the back yard is on another.

Walking in the door feels like coming home. It's toasty and warm and appealingly creaky, filled with the smell of something good cooking, old wood and windows and a warren of rooms to poke through.

The front room is flooded with sunlight, and contains an open kitchen with counter service. The menu is casual and familiar, with breakfast all day, soups, flatbreads, baked pastas and the sandwiches Hope is best-known for.

They do their own baking, including the flatbread dough, kaiser rolls and baguettes. They also make their own pestos and sauces, pickles, everything.

"I tell people there's nothing you can't pronounce," Hope explains.

"People ask what kind of food I serve, and I tell them 'Real, it tastes like real food.'"

Order at the counter and they'll bring your food out to you, whether you've chosen a spot in what was once the dining room, or the back room, with original shelving and fold-out vegetable bins that identify it as having once been the kitchen.

An even smaller room off the kitchen in the back, once a bedroom, now has a dining table that seats six; ideal for meetings, book clubs and groups who want more privacy while they eat. It even has its own bathroom.

"There are a lot of young families in the neighbourhood, and a senior population as well," Hope says.

"This place is comforting and inviting, and it feels like home. The food is recognizable and not overly priced. I tell new parents we're licensed and babies are welcome. I've even been known to cuddle them at times when mom is trying to eat."

When the small eatery started to empty out at dinner time, Hope decided to serve breakfast, lunch and sharing plates. It's things like cheesy baked artichoke dip, flatbreads and cheese and charcuterie boards loaded with locally cured meats, house pickles and chutney. Those are served throughout the day.

They close at 6 p.m. most nights, leaving evenings open for private bookings.

The sluggish economy inspired Hope to come up with unique events to draw people in. They do concrete statue painting and wine nights the second Wednesday of every month. Yes, you and your friends can go paint a gnome, drink some wine, and go home with something for your garden.

The space is perfectly suited for small groups and book clubs. They can accommodate about 25 seated, 45 for a cocktail party.

"It feels like a house party," she says.

"People like that it's small and cozy, and you can wander from room to room."

Small wood tables and chairs make for easy rearranging. 

On Fridays, they do a pop-up wine bar featuring wines from Red Back Wine Imports and a menu that changes from week to week, allowing them to get creative in the kitchen. This week there's herbed local goat cheese with apples, almonds, roasted beets and arugula with champagne dressing, organic rabbit gillette poached in wine with tarragon, and Moroccan style smoked side ribs. They have a smoker out back, and smoke all kinds of things, including the beef for their sandwiches.

Plates range from $6 to $16, and so do the wines. "We're keeping it affordable," Hope says. "People want to go out and do something special on a Friday night, but they can't always spend $200."

When the grandchildren of the original owner came to visit Hope, they brought pictures and told her how much their grandmother loved to entertain.

"She loved having people over and feeding them, so I kind of feel like I have her blessing," Hope says.

"Feeding people is instant gratification. When I came back to it, I felt like I came home."

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