Category Archives: Canada

Ten Days of Fine Food & Wine in Whistler

British Columbia mountain resort hosts fabled restaurant festival.

Cornucopia-logoMuch as Colorado has to offer in the restaurant realm, there’s a good reason to grab a flight to Vancouver next month and head north to Whistler to indulge at Cornucopia. The word means “horn of plenty,” the festival certainly provides opportunities to sample plenty of exquisite food and fabulous wines. There’s not just one style of food or one price point during this annual food and wine event, but local and visiting chefs devise menus for every taste and budget. 

“Each participating restaurant brings its own unique and delicious concept for the festival,” says event producer and Watermark president, Sue Eckersley. “What is really exciting is the vast selection on offer this year, from winery dinners to luncheons to interactive demonstrations. It’s the perfect opportunity to soak up every aspect of B.C.’s diverse culinary scene.”

Cornucopia returnees: Four Seasons Resort Whistler’s SIDECUT Executive Chef Tory Martindale will once again manning the grill during signature events, House Party: Best of B.C., CELLAR DOOR and Crush Gala Grand Tasting. SIDECUT has also partnered with local Lillooet winery Fort Berens for a winery dinner. Alta Bistro pairs modern French flavors with wines from renowned natural wine producers. The Mexican Corner’s five-course dinner features tequila. The Grill Room at Fairmont Chateau Whistler pairs with the Burrowing Owl Winery. Hy’s Steakhouse’s two tableside dinners feature Road 13 winery and Fairview Cellars and the Friday night winery dinner partners  Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery.The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler hosts a black tie event, Indulge Gala Dinner, a fundraiser for the Whistler Healthcare Foundation. Araxi restaurant + bar returns with the annual sell-out event, Big Guns winemaker dinner, and last year’s very popular Intimate Winery Dinner series, all featuring the creations of one of Canada’s leading chefs, James Walt, plus some of B.C.’s finest wines.

If dinner doesn’t work, or if you actually can handle two great meals a day, such Vancouver hot spots Minami, Cibo Trattoria, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, Chef Terry Pinchor from Sonora Resort and Good Wolfe Restaurant present Chef’s Table Luncheons in some of Whistler’s private luxury homes. Also, Nourish is back for its second year with a series of educational and informational seminars and luncheons such as Ferment for Health; Eat the Best, Leave the Rest; Benefits of a Raw Food Diet and more. Whistler’s Green Moustache and Pemberton’s Solfeggio are among the presenters.

Locals often like the à la carte option for particular dinners or other events, but the most convenient booking option for visitors is to book a lodging package. United and Air Canada offer Denver-Vancouver non-stops but the aircraft are operated by partner commuter carriers.

Vancouver: Pop-Up Restaurant on the Roof

Fine dining returns to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s roof .

FairmontVancouver-logoArguably the pop-up restaurant of all pop-up restaurants in Vancouver adds old-world class to a view of the city’s glittering skyline. The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s space called The Roof Restaurant + Bar will operate as a public restaurant through fall 2014 offering Vancouverites and visitors panoramic views of the coastal mountains, soaring high-rises and endless expanse of ocean.

First opened in 1939, the classic room became a nationally known for its dinner, dancing and live performances. Even though The Roof is only slated to operate as a public restaurant for a few months before being converted into private function space, this glamorous space takes guests back to the swank glamour of the past.

The Roof Restaurant + Bar high in the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is operating just until fall.
The Roof Restaurant + Bar high in the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is operating just until fall.

Buffet breakfast, a la carte lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are based on classic menus that match the ambiance. Expect such traditional favorites as oysters, prime rib and Yorkshire pudding at dinner and a sunken bar guaranteed-to-impress cocktails. The Roof is part of a $12-million renovation that will result in a more classic-contemporary Hotel Vancouver by late 2014. Meanwhile, enjoy this blast from the stylish past while you can.

The hotel is at 900 West Georgia Street, Vancouver British Columbia. The general phone number is 604-684-3131.

Cross-posted to

Dine Out Vancouver Fest Starts Today

British Columbia’s biggest city is also a food mecca especially during food fest

DineOutVancouverI love Vancouver. I love its green spaces and skyline. I love its urban sophistication coupled with open-hearted Canadian friendliness. I love its location on the water with mountains as a backdrop.And of course, I love its varied food scene, from modest, authenic ethnic eatiers to restaurants The 11th annual Dine Out Vancouver Festival, a 17-day city-wide celebration of eating out is Canada’s largest restaurant festival. From January 18 to February 3, diners can sample menus from some 200 restaurants around the city, at prix fixe lunch or dinner costs of $18, $28 and $38 per person. Many feature BC VQA wine or Granville Island Brewing beer pairings (of course, at an additional cost). The home page lists participating restaurants by name, cuisine, menu price and neighobrhood.

Dine Out also features special hotel room rates and packages, plus a full menu of unique food-themedevents, seminars and activities. Throughout the festival, diners participate in voting in the Best Bite Awards.Voters are automatically entered to win the Dine Out for a Year contest. Dine
Out Vancouver
Festival 2013 runs from

Horse Meat: Fit to Eat?

Delicacy in Europe threatened by US drugs

Years ago, while visiting Slovenia, I was offered horse meat as one evening’s dinner options. Like most Americans, I recoiled at the thought and politely declined. European carnivores tend to be no more squeamish about horse meat than beef, bison, lamb or pork, and in fact, many American horses have made their way to European tables. According to  a New York Times report today called “Racetrack Drugs  Put Europeans Off U.S. Horsemeat,” that noted, some 138,000 American horses were slaughtered for meat in 2o10, many of them race horses. Now, according to the Times report, American horse meat is falling out of favor due to the quantity of drugs injected into the animals, particularly race horses. The Times reported:

“For decades, American horses, many of them retired or damaged racehorses, have been shipped to Canada and Mexico, where it is legal to slaughter horses, and then processed and sold for consumption in Europe and beyond.

“Lately, however, European food safety officials have notified Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses of a growing concern: The meat of American racehorses may be too toxic to eat safely because the horses have been injected repeatedly with drugs.

“Despite the fact that racehorses make up only a fraction of the trade in horse meat, the European officials have indicated that they may nonetheless require lifetime medication records for slaughter-bound horses from Canada and Mexico, and perhaps require them to be held on feedlots or some other holding area for six months before they are slaughtered.”

Fueled by the dollars and lobbying efforts of the agro-chemical industry, bans against genetically modified food have been stymied in the US, and at the same time, there are no prohibitions against shipping drugged-up animals to other countries for slaughter and further export. Many racehorses, the Times continues, are injected with painkillers so that they can keep racing despite injuries and pain. Some horse break down, and become the “damaged” animals whose meat sent overseas for consumption.

If food safety and the ethics of the American big-time food industry concern you, read the Times report, which might make your hair curl and stomach churn. It did mine, anyway.

Horse Meat in the US? Whoa, Not So Fast

Meanwhile, according to a report in the Huffington Post last year,

“Horses could soon be butchered in the U.S. for human consumption after Congress quietly lifted a 5-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections, and activists say slaughterhouses could be up and running in as little as a month.

“Slaughter opponents pushed a measure cutting off funding for horse meat inspections through Congress in 2006 after other efforts to pass outright bans on horse slaughter failed in previous years. Congress lifted the ban in a spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law Nov. 18 [2011] to keep the government afloat until mid-December.

“It did not, however, allocate any new money to pay for horse meat inspections, which opponents claim could cost taxpayers $3 million to $5 million a year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to find the money in its existing budget, which is expected to see more cuts this year as Congress and the White House aim to trim federal spending.

The USDA issued a statement Tuesday saying there are no slaughterhouses in the U.S. that butcher horses for human consumption now, but if one were to open, it would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed. USDA spokesman Neil Gaffney declined to answer questions beyond what was in the statement….The last U.S. slaughterhouse that butchered horses closed in 2007 in Illinois, and animal welfare activists warned of massive public outcry in any town where a slaughterhouse may open.”

National Public Radio weighed in with a commentary, “Plan to Slaughter Horses for Human Consumption is Met with Distaste.” Legal or not, horse meat hasn’t exactly become an American food fad — and if it ever does, it’s not a fad I plan to follow.

Bites at The Bison

Banff restaurant accentuates the local and sustainable

When I was in Alberta last weekend for speed skating and Alpine skiing World Cup races (and to do some skiing too), I actually did have a few free hours one afternoon. The temperatures were too bone-chilling even for me to  wander among Banff’s beguiling galleries and tempting shops. I went downtown for only one group dinner. Happily, it was worthwhile, because The Bison Restaurant and Lounge serves good food in a two-level establishment with a salumi and cheese bar on the ground floor and an upstairs restaurant and lounge separated by a wall.

The attractive restaurant features paintings hanging on putty gray walls, a sloping ceiling, slate floors, bare-wood tables, sturdy wooden chairs, an open kitchen and one wall of big windows that at this time of year look out onto a snow-covered deck that must be a summer evening delight. There is no official Slow Food convivium in Banff, but The Bison adheres to Slow Food principles. It buys as locally as possible — local extending west to neighboring British Columbia for Okanagan wines, seafood and some summer produce and east to Saskatchewan for berries and other farm products. The breads come from the  Wild Flour Bakery right next door, the crackers are Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps from Vancouver Island and instead of extra virgin olive oil, The Bison cold-presses rapeseed into its own canola oil using EV methods.

The Bison caters to groups with three limited menus. Our group was presented with a choice of two starters, three main courses and two desserts. Among us, we had each of the offerings that our waiter said are similar but not identical to a la carte selections. Our choice of house wines was between a white (Quail’s Gate Chardonnay from the Okanagan) and a red (Parducci Pinot Noir from Mendocino).


Below, attractively adorned Curried Coconut + Pumpkin Soup, with a strong curry flavor, a secondary pumpkin flavor and an undercurrent of coconut. The coconut, of course, is one exception to the local sourcing.

The House Mixed Greens provided a cornucopia of flavors, textures and colors: crisp green lettuces plus black mission figs, maple-roasted walnuts, watermelon radish, fennel and a fine Saskatoon berry vinaigrette.


A circle of color and flavor is the way The Bison plates its Pan Roasted Chicken Supreme (below). Fennel jus flows down over carrot puree and encircles it. The carrot and stewed navy beans together comprise the foundation for the boneless chicken breast that in turn is topped with a toasted almond and apple salad.

The thick-cut, grilled Alberta AAA strip loin is served atop mashed potatoes, braised winter greens, caramelized onion jus. This tall piece of meat is topped with fennel and a sprinkle of herbs for a bit of green.

Pan-seared Pacific salmon is served skin side up on a bed of braised vegetables and wild rice topped with cracked fennel butter.
To Finish
The Bison’s classic, chiffony cheesecake (below) is baked in a thick butter crumb crust and served with a fresh strawberry, a persimmon, Saskatoon huckleberry sauce and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

A clear glass holds the chocolate pudding with raspberry chantilly cream topped with  a persimmon, and a strawberry and two chocolate chip cookies share space on the plate.
The Bison Courtyard, 211 Bear Street, Banff; 403-762-5550.

Chowtime at Chateau Lake Louise: Walliser Stube

Swiss restaurant honors the Banff area’s early Swiss guides

At the end of the 19th century, when the Canadian Pacific Railroad built the Banff Springs Hotel and the Chateau Lake Louise, Swiss mountain guides were imported to lead guests up the surrounding limestone peaks. With serious expressions, the warm wool clothing of the era and the trademark pipes, their portraits are displayed in the public spaces of these two historic hotels that are now part of The Fairmont group. It seems fitting that Swiss restaurants would be among the dining choices. At the Banff Springs, Alpine fare is served at the Waldhaus, and at the Chateau, it’s the specialty of the Walliser Stube.

A group of us had reservations for a fondue evening in the Walliser Stube (properly pronounced “Vahl-eesser Shtoo-beh”). In Switzerland, fondue is usually served in a more rustic setting than this elegant room, that was surely once something else. The beautiful high-ceilinged room has been slightly Swiss-ified with cloth lampshades on some of the hanging lamps, but otherwise, it really looks like a fancier hotel restaurant in a classic Alpine establishment. A bit of a culinary mixed metaphor, but the fondue selection on the dinner menu, a combination of English and German, was tasty.

Leading Up to Les Fondues — and Les Fondue Themselves

A simply set table is the stage on which the fondue feast will star.

Baskets of house-baked rolls and green salads for all start the proceedings.
Guests have a choice of beef or bison tenderloin for the meat fondues. Pearl onions and cornichons are typical accompaniments to that Swiss cheese specialy called raclette, but here, they appear on plate with the meat.
Meat in the foreground and behind that plate is one with a selection of seafood (shrimp, hefty chunks of fatty salmon, halibut and scallops).
Clever iron stands hold small bowls of  various dipping sauces: Wasabi Yoghurt, Sweet Soy and Miso Emulsion, Spanish Dipping Sauce, Honey – Dijon, Herb and Garlic, and Brandy Peppercorn.

The Walliser Stube’s fondue pots have notched rims tp help keep the forks from dueling as the food cooks.

And for dessert, chocolate fondue with assorted fruits and cubes of cake for dipping.

The Walliser Stube is on the main floor of The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Chowtime at Chateau Lake Louise: Glacier Saloon

Classic Canadian hotel’s down-to-earth dining options

North America’s most imposing hotels are those  built in the 19th and early 20th centuries by Canada’s transcontinental railroads — the Canadian National in the East and the Canadian Pacific in the West. They built grand hotels in the European style from the Nova Scotian in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the Hotel Vancouver and the Empress in Victoria, both in British Columbia. Owing to the grandiose scenery, the Banff/Lake Louise area got two in close proximity, the Banff Springs Hotel, from which I am writing this post, and the nearby Chateau Lake Louise. Both are now part of The Fairmont Hotel group.

Built in a formal age when ladies were ladies in long skirts, gentlemen were gentlemen in starched shirts and ties, and decorum ruled among the guests who could afford to travel and to stay in these baronial accommodations, they have now adapted remarkably to today’s times: spas, Internet access, flat-screen televisions and informal restaurants. I just dined at two of them. First, the Glacier Saloon.

Walk through the swinging doors of the Glacier Saloon and you have a luxury hotel’s interpretation of a Wild West Saloon. Lots of natural wood. Lots of noise. Lots of families with small children. Lots of young people giggling around tables or bending elbows at the bar. The menu includes starters  to nibble and share, sandwiches, pizzas and full-on entrées. Even in the rough-and-ready saloon ambiance, the ingredients are organic and, when possible, local and sustainable. I took the food photos below at all sorts of odd-ball angles, beseeching my companions not to eat until I snapped a shot and reaching across the table and in front of people. But here are examples of what the Saloon serves:

Crisp fried calamari (below) comes in a cast-iron pan with pimento and caper relish on top, zesty chipotle dip on the side and half a lemon neatly tied in a little mesh bundle. Even in an informal place like the Saloon, the Chateau’s penchant for service comes through. They don’t want a diner accidentally biting into a lemon seed.

Open Fire Ribs is what the Saloon calls its marinated baby back ribs blanketed in smoke Dijon barbecue sauce. Neatly piled fries add the restaurant’s own slaw are classic sides.
The Cowboy Caesar salad features strips of peppered bacon and a large Bannock crouton atop romaine lettuce. Creamy Caesar is the dressing.
The menu lists just four 12-inch pizzas. None are the standards, but they suit pizza lovers from vegetarians to carnivores. This Cattleman’s BBQ Chicken Pizza is a thin crust topped with applewood-smoked chicken, dark ale barbecue sauce, red onions, slow-roasted garlic and cilantro.
Glazed AAA ribeye steak with buttermilk mashed potatoes, citrus and ale demi-glace and mixed vegetables.
The Trailrider Chicken Burger is comes open-faced on a sesame Kaiser bun with spicy Jack cheese, red onion rings (the menu says they’re fried, but they aren’t), pico de gallo, guacamole and chipotle may. A ramekin of ketchup for dipping the fries completes the assemblage.

The Grilled Chicken and Mandarin Salad incorporates some tastes of Asia into a salad served in this determinedly Western eatery. Romaine and butter leaf lettuce with julienned sweet peppers, Mandarin orange slices and fried glass noodles are tossed in a hoisin and sesame oil vinaigrette.

The Glacier Saloon is in The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, located at the end of Lake Louise Drive, near Banff.