We were fortunate to have the opportunity to spend last weekend in Banff, the result of an impromptu request for Mack to speak at the Canadian Arts Summit. Hosted at the beautiful Banff Centre this year, it was easy to see how rejuvenating the location itself could be for the conference delegates.
The Banff Centre
While making our way to the Professional Development Centre, we stumbled upon two deer. Though I shouldn’t be surprised that wildlife in the area no longer flinch at the sign of humans, we were still amazed at their nonchalance in spite of our close proximity.
On Saturday evening, we joined Ken and his wife Amy at the Dining Room in Donald Cameron Hall, a gorgeous space lined with windows that allowed for a spectacular view. Being that the event was a gathering of arts and culture administrators and artists, we even spotted a Canadian celebrity – Paul Gross of Due South fame.
The banquet dinner was a little better than most large events I’ve attended, though to be fair, this function only saw about 6o or so guests served. My favourite part of the meal was hands down the sweet potato crisps atop the sablefish main – an ingenious idea, executed perfectly!
Spinach salad with pomegranate dressing
Sablefish with sweet potato crisps and vegetables
Raspberry crème brulee and berries
After the meal, we joined Ken and Amy at Saltlik for a drink and in Ken’s opinion, the world’s best calamari. With such hype and high expectations, Mack and I were sure the wok-fired calamari wouldn’t live up to it all, but it did. Simply prepared, with a touch-light batter, tossed with sea salt, pepper, poblanos and charred serranos, they were surprisingly addictive.
Wok-fired calamari from Saltlik
The next morning, while Mack was at the conference, I trekked the roadside path to downtown Banff, about a half hour walk. Though I passed a few people on the way down, I mostly had the route to myself, not a sound to be heard save for the whistle of the wind through the trees.
The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel in the distance
I took a break at Evelyn’s Again, one of the three incarnations of the popular Evelyn’s Coffee Bar in town (it looks like another is in the works on Banff Avenue). While the coffee ($1.75 for a small) was nothing to complain about, the cookie ($2.50) was as hard as a rock – I was left wondering how long it had been sitting in the display case.
Coffee and (never again) cookie at Evelyn’s Again
After some satisfying time with a book, I did some window shopping. I passed by the cutest burger car, and a potential spot for lunch on a future visit – Shakes, a cafe that serves Bubble Tea, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and Vietnamese subs – what versatility!
The Eddie burger Bug
Before departing Banff, Mack met up with me for lunch at The Bison, as I had been eager to try some of their more casual fare in the lounge. It was nearly a full house downstairs, and as a result, took the staff several minutes before acknowledging our presence. Our eventual server apologized for the wait, and after that, our experience was a smooth ride.
Even though the cheese and charcuterie board was incredibly tempting, we decided to split two hot entrees, with the hopes they would warm me up from my time outside. The bison chili ($9.95) was smaller than we anticipated, but great all the same – the meat had been finely ground and nicely seasoned, and even without intense heat, had great flavour. I only wished it had been served to us a touch warmer.
Bison chili with Sylvan Star cayenne gouda (the bread ‘n’ butter was mighty tasty too)
The baked mini potato skins, with a slice of venison pepperoni, Sylvan Star cayenne gouda and creme fraiche, were wonderful. Satisfyingly crispy on the outside, but perfectly cooked on the inside, the combination of the potato, meat and melted cheese was incredibly comforting, and was exactly what I needed at that moment.
Baked mini potato skins
Based on our other experience, I’d have to say I prefer the casual side of The Bison, if not only because I prefer the lounge menu and its casual atmosphere.
Thanks again for a great weekend, Banff – I’ll be back soon!
221 Bear Street, Banff, AB
Evelyn’s Again (2 other locations)
119 Banff Avenue, Banff, AB
208 Bear Street, Banff, AB