April 2010


Food: Edmonton30 Apr 2010 06:07 pm

In recent years, the area around the University has exploded with dining options. I remember when it seemed there was just crappy chinese at Ho Ho’s in HUB, Earl’s (too rich for my student blood), Great Canadian Bagel, Gaya Korean, Sugarbowl (a bit too far) and Wendy’s to pick from. I used to do all night study sessions during spring exam season and would walk over to Wendy’s at midnight to grab some chili, lamenting there weren’t better selections in the area.

Well, there are now a multitude of choices including, but not limited to: Hudson’s, Sobey’s, Good Earth Cafe, Burrito Libre, and one of the newest members of the team – Rodeo Burgers. I stopped in on a weeknight to grab some burgers, and was pleasantly surprised with my burger.

It’s the mama burger joint, with the daddy burger being Hudson’s (prices at $11-20 a burger) and the baby being Wendy’s ($1.29-5 burgers), which are nearby. Prices at Rodeo Burgers run the $5-9 range, and they are also licensed, so they are a good midway between the two other joints.

It’s a nice place, renovated from the Chinese restaurant that used to be there and next to a Burrito Libre location. It was a bit reminiscent of a Chipotle restaurant, with wood floors and steel tables as the main features. The tables looked a lot like the ones from Grandma D’s BBQ (R.I.P) in the west end, actually.

They primarily offer lunch and dinner, but did have a large “coming soon” sticker over a breakfast section on their menu.

Rodeo Burgers makes a lot of claims. I’m happy to say they came through on many of these.

The restaurant offers a plethora of toppings including a few kinds of ketchup, raw and caramelized onions, bacon, fresh relish and even some odder things like jalapenos in cream cheese and guacamole. It’s hard to tell if their housemade claims are true on items like ketchup and sauces, but the fresh relish was definitely legit, so one would assume they have no reason to cover up.

I found the fries a bit pricey (in the New York Fries price territory at $4-5) but they looked substantial and fresh cut, as they say. I’ll have to try them next visit.

I got Mike the namesake Rodeo burger, and I got a modified Lonestar burger with spicy jalapenos in cream cheese. The ingredients were indeed fresh and delicious. The lettuce crunched instead of being limp in your mouth, and there were a lot of other toppings going on as well.

The bun was fresh, which makes a huge difference.

I suppose my only complaint would be that the patty itself wasn’t that substantial. It’s not necessary a problem, as you can upgrade to two patties easily, but it’s just something to be aware of. Hudson’s Burgers are meaty and big;  it is where I go when I need a BURGER. Wendy’s on the other hand is more of a light snack, for I often get the junior burgers. Again, Rodeo Burgers falls in the middle, with a thin style patty, but a lot of toppings. I feel that the toppings really shine, but almost overpower the meatiness.

I would return, especially for a quick casual bite for when I don’t want to spend an hour eating at Hudson’s.

Also, here’s a bonus. Mike does pottery at a studio just off Whyte Avenue. Next door, a space has been renovated to become this, what appears to be an Indian restaurant (possibly banquet hall?) called Narayanni’s. It is a block south of Whyte Avenue at 101 Street and 81 Avenue.

—-

Rodeo Burgers
8525B 112 Street (across from the University Hospital)
Edmonton
780-435-6733

website not working yet: www.rodeoburger.com

Narayanni’s
(coming soon)
101 Street and 81 Avenue
Edmonton


Food and Food: Home Cookin'18 Apr 2010 11:59 pm

Sometimes I hit the cafeteria at work at around 3pm, just before it closes, to get some hot water for tea. I occasionally peep in the cooler to see what’s up for offering, and almost every time I look, there is a single sad egg salad sandwich double wrapped in plastic film, calling out to someone to buy it. Not unlike a long forgotten dog at the pound.

I think I know how it ended up coming to this, too. People eating overcooked eggs drowning in scads of industrial “mayonnaise” on soggy bread masquerading as egg salad sandwiches. Egg salad can be hard to do, and so it’s often never done right. But here’s the perfect recipe for seven minute egg salad.

Start with four or five eggs. Place them in a pot, just covering them with water. Bring the pot to a gentle boil, then cover and immediately remove from heat. Let sit, covered, for seven minutes.

Meanwhile, get a bowl ready with ice water in it. After the seven minutes are up, your eggs will go into it immediately.

After their seven minute hot tub bath and ice water plunge, the eggs should come out ever-so-slightly soft centered, with no grey ring. No grainy yolks in rubbery whites here. Something to keep in mind: very fresh eggs can be hard to peel.

While this was happening, I used more eggs to prepare some fresh mayonnaise. Of course you could doctor a decent store brand if you are short on time, but freshly made is delicious with an unparalleled texture and flavour you customize.

I’ve included Michel Roux’s classic recipe for curried mayo. It doesn’t take too long, but the amount of oil that goes into it could disturb you. Mayonnaise isn’t the most healthy condiment.

Garam Masala Mayonnaise

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 250ml groundnut oil (I used safflower. Using ALL olive oil will create a very odd taste, and I wouldn’t recommend it)
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp fresh garam masala (use more if you are using store bought)
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar or lemon juice

I used my favourite tool, the hand blender and the whisk attachment. Doing this the old fashioned way builds your biceps, to be sure.

In a small dish, dissolve the garam masala in the vinegar or lemon juice.

Mix the mustard with the salt and pepper in another container. Add egg yolks and mix immediately.

Slowly begin adding oil as you whisk, drop by drop, working up to a steady thin stream. You don’t want to add oil too fast or too slow. It’s difficult to gauge, but you get better the more you make.

As I made it in the kitchen, Mike was able to tell I was being overly cautious and going too slowly just by hearing how long I was taking from another room, and suggested I speed up. He’s the mayo master.

Eventually all of the oil will be added. Fold in the spice and vinegar mixture and whip for a further 30 seconds if you want a glossy mayo. Add more seasoning if needed.

This mayo will keep for a few days. Don’t leave it on the counter too long.

—-

Things were going well until my last 30 second whip to make the mayonnaise glossy. Some oil on the side of my container made it difficult to hold and…

Shit. Mayo everywhere.

Prepare your mise en place with what you like best in your egg salad. I went the herby route this time, using finely chopped celery, green onion and chives. Capers, pickles, dill, tarragon, red peppers and tomatoes all make fine additions as well. I added a sprinkle of paprika, salt and pepper.

Garam masala egg salad sandwich

Finally, add sprouts, tomatoes and fresh bread. I’ve written before that egg salad reminds me of my grandmother, and it is true. She used to wrap up egg salad to bring with her on long days spent fishing. They were wrapped in wax paper, and so delicious. I thought of her last night while eating. I think she would have liked that.

Today I used a bit more of the mayo to make tuna salad. Maybe we’ll make smoked chicken salad this week, too. Gotta use up the rest of that mayo!

Food and Food: Las Vegas16 Apr 2010 11:34 pm

I’ve been spending a crap load of time trying to find a suitable restaurant in Las Vegas for the wedding rehearsal dinner this week. It’s kind of a nightmare, actually; far more difficult than picking the restaurant we are using for the reception dinner.

Anyhow, in my web wanderings I found this pretty awesome tool that I hope becomes popular. Maybe it IS popular in the States…I don’t know. It’s a system that makes group ordering for lunch or group functions much easier. It’s hard to keep track of money owing, coordinating who got what, etc etc., if you have ever done it. This tool accepts orders sent via an email link to a menu, and also allows for each person to pay for their own meal if need be.

A restaurant called Memphis Championship BBQ in Vegas uses it. Here’s a screen cap of the instructions:

Pretty awesome, right?

Alright. Back to restaurant research.

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels14 Apr 2010 09:33 am

(It took a while, but this is my last Vegas post from the trip in early March. In another month we’re back there again! Not sure how much food blogging that trip will garner though… -K.Z.)

For a long time, Italian was my favourite cuisine. In recent years, it’s really become Japanese food though. I’m not talking sushi or drive-thru restaurant rice bowls. I mean the good stuff: miniature octopi, pig ear, fish roe, dashi broth, tendon and above all, fresh noodles. It’s impossible to find in Edmonton, so I often save up my cravings for a mammoth meal when we get to Las Vegas. We chose to eat at Raku this past visit.

Raku, like Lotus of Siam, is a notoriously busy restaurant. I don’t know if there are any restaurants more buzzed about online in the Vegas food community than Raku, except perhaps Joel Robuchon’s Mansion. Odd, considering the two are at very opposite ends of the food spectrum. One is on Strip, the other off. One unearthly expensive, the other cheap (well, okay, maybe just affordable.) One French, the other Japanese. But they do share a very common thread: incredible cuisine.

Again, we arrived without a reservation (we’re terrible!) and were told we’d have 30 minutes to eat at the bar. If we were lucky. I was gung ho, but some members of our party were not. I thought we wouldn’t get another chance for some time to eat at Raku again, so we’d scarf and run. Turns out, they did find an actual table for us, and we took our time eating. All that worry for nought.

Aburiya Raku is a robata restaurant…mostly. It’s a dark cozy restaurant that appeals to a wide range of clientele. We saw a couple on a date, sharing a sake flight and Sapporo beers. A family with a child gobbling down chicken thighs on sticks. Businessmen, young, old; all brought here by the food.

Fresh tofu, green onions, dried onion and fresh ginger and dipping sauce

The menu takes some time to work through, and requires an imaginative mind. A plain sounding “tofu” belies what the dish actually is: fresh housemade tofu, creamy and sweet and salty and firm, lick-the-dish good. So, think outside the box and get something that might sound ordinary. Trust me, it will not be.

In addition to the menu the are, of course, nightly specials. These are brought round on a chalkboard. They threw our group into a tizzy and doubled our already substantial food order.

Kobe beef liver

Hell if I can remember. Roe of some kind, with tuna I think

Mackerel. Our server came over and deftly extracted the bones with just a set of chopsticks and a single carefully placed finger.

Pig ear: gelatinous, chewy and salty. The perfect savoury snack.

Baby octopi. I kind of felt guilty eating them, since they always grow up to be so cool and intelligent.

Raku is really fantastic. A wide selection of hot and cold dishes, from small to large, encompassing all palates and wallet sizes.

A sake flight. There are many to choose from, and they all come with detailed descriptions. As with the food specials, there is also a special sake flight selection that changes monthly.

Be warned that Raku only serves wine, beer and sake, not hard liquor like Ichiza just down the street.

Our problem was solved by hopping across Spring Mountain Road and going for dessert, more food and drinks at Ichiza after. I just had to have the honey toast…

Ichiza’s honey toast. On our last visit I saw this as we were leaving and had to pick my jaw up off the floor. It’s like a little bread fort, toasted, filled with ice cream and honey.

..and Evan just had to have the shochu.

Evan, pleased with his “mystery greens” shochu. Still no word on what the mystery green came from.

Both Raku and Ichiza are in the same vein, but with different execution. Ichiza does the lax party atmosphere well, with more pub food on the menu. After all, it IS an izakaya.

Raku is a bit more refined (in ambiance and decor), with simpler, yet tastier, dishes. I would never refuse either, but Raku is my personal favourite after trying both. It is also said to be the favourite of local chefs getting off work late as well.

It’s open until 3am every night but Sunday. Perfect for late night snackers.

Aburiya Raku
5030 Spring Mountain Road
Las Vegas, Nevada
Open 6pm to 3am every night, closed Sundays

Ichiza Izakaya
4355 Spring Mountain Road
Las Vegas, Nevada
Open for lunch noon to 2:30pm weekdays
Dinner 5pm to 3am every night

Reservations recommended for both, lest you be prepared to wait or be turned away.

Travels13 Apr 2010 08:40 am

we picked a perfect day to ski. a holiday monday, i thought the resort would be overrun with calgarians. instead we faced mild weather, a sunny morning and little wind. there was even some fresh spring snow.

connor was a good sport, waiting for us at turns, trying to go slow and only taking us down a black diamond by accident once.

the terrifying pommel lift. you “sat” (or in my case, clenched with your thighs) on a tiny blue platter that pulled you up the mountain from in between your legs. i was limping for three days after skiing.

The view of the front and backside from the summit is unbelievable, especially when the light is right.

click the photo for a larger panoramic. this was taken on the front side of louise. the bad thing about being an inexperienced skiier is that you can get distracted by the view once, and then you’re on your ass or off into the trees somewhere.

mid afternoon snack. the boys got freshly bbq’d burgers. i had lip balm, chips, a soda and giant rocket candy.

don’tlookdowndon’tlookdowndon’tlookdown

however it’s easy to ignore the height of the chair lift by chatting and looking at the mountains around you

any arrested development fans read this?

connor and madlen’s front hall is occupied by skis of all kinds.

this is connor and madlen’s view from their cul-de-sac in lake louise. i know. i wouldn’t want to live there either.

Food and Travels12 Apr 2010 07:36 am

After a long day of skiing, Mike, Connor and I were ravenous. Unable to get an earlier reservation, we had to wait until 8pm to eat at Walliser Stube, the Swiss restaurant in Chateau Lake Louise. By then, I could barely stop myself from gnawing off my own arm.

Ominous looking Chateau Lake Louise

The bar in Walliser Stube

In recent years Lake Louise has become one of my favourite areas to visit in the Rockies, mostly due to the lower concentration of people in the back country and the huge selection of activities one can try. Lake Louise has deep roots in the Canada’s mountaineering community, and is more than just a tourist trap. If you’ve ever walked around Lake Louise, you’ve seen the rock climbers at the back of the lake. This place is legit.

There were many Swiss guides that worked in the area after they were hired by Canadian Pacific (the original owners of the Chateau Lake Louise) to guide people following a mountaineering accident many years ago. Hence, Walliser Stube exists to pay tribute to them and the influence they had on the area.

The menu is in gothic text and it feels a bit cheesy, but the view of Lake Louise from the dining room is unbeatable and the food is outstanding. There were many couples availing themselves of the romantic atmosphere.

Many of the selections are cheese-based (the best kind of restaurant, in my opinion) but there are more traditional European favourites like schnitzel.

We received a basket of breads: pumpernickel, rye, ciabatta and the table favourite: pretzel bread.

I got a Victorian Alpine Glow cocktail. It seemed out of place on the cocktail menu – it was slightly savoury and came with red peppers and chives.

The staff came out as the sun fell out of the sky and set up the equipment we needed for our meal. I ordered a fondue, and the boys got raclette. Raclette (rack-let) is a soft Swiss cheese that is heated, and then you scrape off the melted top onto bread, meat, and vegetables. It’s a bit unwieldy as the machine required a lot of room on the table, but very delicious.

There is an entire page of fondues on the menu. I got the traditional, with Gruyere, Appenzeller and Emmentaler cheeses in a wine wine and kirsch bath. There was an avalanche of pepper on it, and a a burner underneath heats the pot until the cheese bubbles. The anticipation of waiting for the cheese to bubble and the raclette to melt was brutal, but well worth it.

In addition to cubed bread, I also received a plate of vegetables to dip into the cheese. The only thing that completely baffled me was the asparagus. It was super thin and hard to dip in the cheese. I just ate it plain.

The restaurant also offers more substantial fondues with beef, bison or seafood. They come with a tower of dipping sauces.

Raclette scraping. The raclette came with an impressive spread of charcuterie from Valbella as well as vegetables. When the meat ran out, Connor asked for a bit more, and a whole other plate was brought out. The service was consistent and quite good, actually.

Cheese dipping. I had tonnes of left over bread after the cheese was gone. I think my favourite part of the fondue was when the cheese started to get a bit crispy and brown as it thinned out.

The heater was kept under a napkin drape, and it was as bright as the sun when it was lifted, illuminating all the other poor couples trying to be romantic in the dining room.

It was a great time, and a wonderful reward after a day of skiing. I can only say try to save room for dessert. Their menu looks wonderful, and goes beyond chocolate fondue.

Afterwards we walked around the Chateau. It’s a beautiful old school resort hotel.

In one of the display cabinets for a gift shop they had what appeared to be “Canadian food.” The usual suspects were there: maple syrup and maple cream cookies, salmon, various jams and preserves and… wait, what? Bottled water?

Yes, that’s right. Bottled water. It’s Canadian!

Walliser Stube
at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Lake Louise, Alberta
Open for dinner nightly, 6pm-9:30pm

Food and Travels10 Apr 2010 06:14 pm

Pizza pies and cherry pies, that is.

On our way to Lake Louise, our friends Dave and Jenn were kind enough to host us for a night. They were originally going to join us for the buffet, but couldn’t make it in the end.

We weren’t sure what to eat that night, but felt like pizza. After doing some internet research (which consists of googling “best pizza calgary”, a method that has had great success in most cities), I had decided that Pizza Bob’s was the place to try as it did thin crust pizza and it was close to Kensington, where Dave and Jenn live.

Turns out the sources I used were wrong. Horribly horribly wrong. I will have to ignore recommendations from the forum that suggested this place it was just that poor.

I’m not sure where it went wrong…is there just no good thin crust pizza in Calgary? In Edmonton we have Tony’s and Pizza Boys Ragazzi Bistro (and lesser so, Famoso) to pick from. I thought it would be easy to find a good ‘za in Calgary.  I guess I was wrong. Recommendations are VERY welcome for next time.

Lots of toppings, but dare I say too many? This was the Fire Chicken pizza with pineapple, chicken, and hot sauce. The crust couldn’t sustain the eye popping load of toppings and most ended up at the bottom of the box as soon as you picked up a piece. On our other pizza, a traditional with pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage and veggies, there wasn’t enough sauce. Same problem with tumbling toppings. They’re no good to me on the box.

The major problem was the burnt, overly dry crust with no chew. It reminded us all of a water cracker. Ugh. Atleast we had the buffet the next day to take our  mind off of it.

On the way home to Edmonton, we stopped at Log Barn 1912 for another kind of pie.

Dave and Jenn live mere minutes away from Log Barn 1912. For years it was a travel agency, but then was renovated to become this kitsch factory and drive through pie pick up joint. (yes, you read that correctly.)

Every visit we’ve had to Calgary, we joke and talk about it, but have never visited. We’re also surprised it remains open. For one, it’s kind of awkward to get to (it is only accessible from the westbound lane of 16 Ave NW) and for two, was their pie even any good?

Mike and I finally took the time to find out on our way back home to Edmonton from Lake Louise.

We didn’t use the drive through as I had a feeling this place would be special. Turns out I was right. This place is all over the place.

There is bric-a-brac anywhere your eye rests, which isn’t for long. Quilts, preserves, wooden motorcycles, sausage, sock monkeys, juices… it’s packed to the gills with crap that is not pies.

Jams, jellies, pickles and preserves.

I guess pies alone do not pay the bills, so they have to add as much filler as possible. I was just hoping their pies weren’t all filler.

Alright, this is more my speed. Mennonite sausage and jerky. I tried to look up what makes Mennonite sausage such, but there did not seem to be many recipes. I guess it will remain a Mennonite Mystery. We were given a sample of warm sausage ring and also garlic ring, but I found little about it worth recounting here. Maybe my standards are just too high after Mike started making his own sausage.

Although we had hoped to just get a piece of pie each, two slices cost half as much as a pie. So that is how we ended up eating cherry pie out of the box on the QE2 as we drove back to Edmonton. Should I feel shame?

(note: photo not taken while driving)

My brother – who lives in Kelowna – said there are places like this all over the Okanagan flogging Mennonite sausage, fresh fruit and pies. Log Barn 1912 in particular is an offshoot of a location near Armstrong, B.C., where they peddle more of the same: a bit of the country life, with fresh fruit and over priced tchotchkes.

The pie report: We got a cherry pie, filled with standard from-the-can pie filling (a flavour I enjoy, actually). Perhaps we would have been best to try another variety of fruit like apple to really gauge the pie. The crust was good and did appear to be hand formed. Flakier than most, without a soggy bottom which plagues many pies, but no where near as awesome as the masterpies my mom makes. They claim a special sugar mixture goes on top to help it melt in your mouth, but in my opinion a good pie doesn’t need it. I’m a pie purist, though. I suspect the pies are half baked and frozen and then rebaked fresh that day at the store, as ours was still warm when we got it.

Mostly this place is just hype to try and suck people into buying nostalgia and a “piece of their past” in the form of pie. (The box actually says “Reclaiming our past” I don’t know what that means.) While I think the pie was better than most I’ve had from retail outlets and supermarkets, little about it justified the $15 price tag. But atleast we answered the question of what the Log Barn was all about.

Pizza Bobs
2610 Kensington Road NW
Calgary, Alberta
403-521-2624

Log Barn 1912
1510 – 16th Avenue NW
Calgary, Alberta
403-457-5229

Food: Las Vegas and Travels09 Apr 2010 06:40 pm

My parents have been in Thailand since January. They go for a few months every year, and although I would love to get over and visit them every year, it’s not possible. So instead I Skype periodically with them and hear about all the awesome food they are eating. Even decades after our first visit to the country, my dad is still astounded at the low prices and the deliciousness of every dish. We’ve really lost touch with freshness and flavour in many of our eateries here in North America, I’m afraid. This is especially evident when one compares food court food.

Although I cannot spare three weeks to make a good trip out of going to Bangkok, I can spare a few days off to go to Vegas. Luckily, one of the best Thai restaurants in the United States (so “they” say) lives there. Some say the best in the western hemisphere. Although I urged my parents to go on their last trip to Las Vegas, neither they nor I have had time to go until this past trip.

After drinking beer in the airport lounge in Edmonton (beer was flowing heavily there following Canada’s Olympic gold medal win in hockey) and snacking on little on the plane, Evan, Mike and I were ravenous upon touchdown in Vegas. I grabbed the rental car and we were off to find Lotus of Siam.

The King, and The King!

L.O.S lives in a strip mall east of the strip on Sahara Avenue, beside an Indian restaurant, a showgirl’s wig store and various Korean BBQ and Japanese joints. (And near to a notorious swingers club!)

I’ve heard the line ups are long and you would be crazy to show up with out a reservation, but luck was on our side on Sunday night. We had to wait a mere 10 minutes for a table, in a small waiting room where a single photo hung of the King of Thailand with The King: Elvis. That photograph blew my mind.

This restaurant has been in Las Vegas for a decade, and is different than most Thai restaurants you will find because they specialize in street food and northern Thai food. You’ll still see old favourites on the menu, but there are many other items you may be hard pressed to find even in some areas of Thailand unless your Thai language skills are strong.

We ordered tom klong pla-krob to start, which is a seafood soup enhanced with “smoked sheet fish.” They were out of the Cambodian smoked fish, so we got the soup with catfish instead. The soup was still great, with delicate fish and an acidic tang. I can only imagine what it would be like with the additional smoky flavour of the special fish.

Additionally, we got kang ka noon; a spicy jackfruit curry (on the left). I found this dish lacking a bit. The jackfruit wasn’t as sweet as I hoped, and didn’t exhibit a sweet/sour dichotomy as I had hoped. It did have an interesting texture, but was lacking depth.

We also got sticky rice and Northern larb (sometimes known as lahp.) It was minced pork, with herbs and dried red chilis. The thing that makes it different is that it does not contain lime juice, as other (ie., Laotian) lahps do.

Our dishes came out in order of heat, ending with the nam prik noom or green chili dip. It looks a lot of a tomatillo salsa, right? It’s roasted green chilis mixed with garlic and onion, served with cooling steamed vegetables like cabbage, asparagus, green beans and cucumbers. It was super spicy, but not in a hot wings kind of way where you can only taste heat. There were some interesting flavours going on. I really appreciated the vegetables.

The restaurant is currently overhauling its decor and adding a wine room to support their enormous wine list. The restaurant itself was huge, and I couldn’t imagine how incredibly busy it could get.

We started off slow and then ramped up the heat. Although my dad likes to ask for things Bangkok Street Hot at Edmonton restaurants, I don’t think I would recommend it at Lotus of Siam. They’re serious about spice. Our server asked us what level of heat we wanted for each dish, applying the unuseful scale of 1-10. Then he said “10 can make Thai people cry.” So we stuck to an upper limit of 7, which I found hotter than most four chili dishes at restaurants here at home, but still edible. (Can restaurants find a better way to rate heat, please? PLEASE?)

Overall, I really enjoyed our visit. We seemed to order well, too, since I enjoyed almost all of our dishes. It was a great way to start the trip.

Lotus of Siam
953 E. Sahara Ave
Las Vegas, Nevada
(702) 735-3033

Food and Travels08 Apr 2010 06:04 pm

Friends of ours happen to live in Lake Louise. This idyllic town is about an hour west of Banff, and consists of a large ski resort, a few hotels, two gas stations and a small strip mall and Parks Canada visitors centre. What it lacks in amenities it makes up for in personality and views.

The friends, Connor and Madlen, met while working at the Post Hotel, one of the finest hotels in Alberta. Connor was a chef at the restaurant and Madlen worked at the hotel. A few years later, they’ve ended up back in Lake Louise under similar circumstances, and asked us to come visit for Easter…particularly to take advantage of the incredible holiday buffet the hotel puts on. I am not a buffet person in general, but I was looking forward to this one based on the rave reviews I had received.

Madlen obtained reservations for our group months in advance, and we arrived for the 11:30 seating a bit early. The dining room was just being prepped, so we took some time to admire the holiday decor in the hotel. It’s a Relais & Châteaux property, so it offers amazing service and amenities. The Post has been open since 1942, originally owned by a British man. It was a sort of ski outfitting lodge, but was popular in all seasons. In 1978 the hotel was sold to a pair of Swiss brothers who retain ownership today. They were circulating the dining room when we arrived, and were on very familiar and friendly terms with many of the guests that day, most of which seemed like frequent visitors.

Chocolate and sugar Easter displays. There were little edible treats scattered throughout.

A floral carnation rabbit and egg tree.

The main lobby had a seating area that I think overlooked a skating rink. It was a bit too warm to go skating while we were in Lake Louise, unfortunately.

I found the hotel cozier, more friendly and with better service than the hyped Fairmont hotels that dot the Rockies. The buffet just sealed the deal.There are a few seatings, which ensures fresh items at each one, and maintains an excellent ratio of diners to servers as well as diners to buffet table frontage. It can be hard to jockey for position at most buffets, and you are expected to move along as if in a cattle line.

There were a few main sections to the buffet: seafood, charcuterie, hot items and dessert. That is definitely over simplifying, however, as the proof was in the pudding. And was that pudding well executed and very, very special.

I’ll let my 36 photos tell the story.

Wide range of European breads, breakfast pastries like danishes alongside pretzels and croissants. To the right, a server was on hand to spoon out a rich-smelling cream of mushroom soup.

Roasted vegetables including asparagus, squash, peppers and eggplant. Salads included Caprese, a few kinds of noodle, pasta. Sprinkled throughout were dressings, marinated olives and numerous other condiments I know I missed.

More salad photos as the section moves into the fish and seafood.

The buffet featured a huge selection of well presented seafood. In fact, that, coupled with the cold cuts and meat trays, were what I considered the strengths of this buffet. The crab was all pre-cracked and the meat was easy just to strip out of the legs.

Lobster morsels and claw meat, with jellied crayfish.

Sugar decor mixed with fresh flowers and carved fruits and vegetables as well as an ice sculpture.

Rainbow trout. Many of the displays were pure art. Other fish for the taking included smoked bass (which was one of the highlights of the meal) and salmon. Lots of salmon.

The oysters were incredibly popular. I’m not sure what kind they were, perhaps Kusshi, as they were a bit smaller and had a very crisp taste. They were also cleaned extremely well. Not a speck of sand in any of the several I ate.

In addition to the oysters there were many sauces and condiments to add to them, or the other seafoods nearby. Curry mayonnaise, mignonette, basil vinaigrette and just plain lemons were some of the ones I remember.

While there was a large selection of sushi and sashimi, I did not care for the piece of tuna I tried (I found it a bit tough and dry) so I stayed clear of most of it. It could have been a mistake, but there were so many other amazing things to eat, I did not miss it. As far as I’m concerned the sushi was the only (small) misstep at the meal.

Connor and Mike’s first plates. They had a strategy: to stick to Atkins style eating, avoiding filling starches.

My second plate, with some hot items, and a lot of protein, including a cabbage wrapped pate (far right), and going clockwise: oyster, venison slice, herbed shrimp, lobster meat, a delicious slice of tender beef and potato gratin.

The hot items were very limited: beef tenderloin sliced to order, eggs benedict, rice, steamed vegetables, halibut in cream sauce and potatoes gratin. However the items were all fresh and were not left to remain cooking in the chafing dishes long.

The charcuterie blew me away. I forgot to ask Connor how many days they began prepping all of the meats, but it had to have been busy in the kitchen. Pâté en croute at centre, with cornish game hens, pâtés and venison slices presented all around it. I found the cabbage wrapped pâté a real treat. The cabbage added a crunch, colour and sweetness to the meat, without the added heft of bacon or traditional wrappings.

More meat slices, some jellied, some not. Each with a carrot maple leaf garnish. Again, all around various condiments and dresses, including horseradish whip, cornichons, mustards and so on.

At this point, I don’t even recall what these photos are of. It looks like vegetable terrines up front and pieces of prosciutto with cantaloupe at back.

Baked salmon at rear and one of the many trays of gravlax at front. There was a definite European slant to the meal, which I really enjoyed.

Cheese and dessert section.

The pastry chef came out during the meal to check on his creations and make sure the children (and children at heart) were enjoying them. The choux pastry profiterole swans were amazing in their detail.

Dessert plate number one for me. A custard raspberry tart, cheese, milk chocolate mousse and a Baileys or Kahlua mousse in a shot glass. Not easy to get out of the glass, but easy to get down.

And more dessert: tortes, jelly beans, crème caramel, various mousses, cakes, pies, squares, fruits, cheeses …

Dessert plate number two. More mousses, crème caramel and a chocolate dipped strawberry.

In good spirits at the end of the meal.

Overall, an excellent meal. At $58 it was not cheap, and Lake Louise isn’t as close to Calgary as Banff or Canmore, but the quality and ambiance of the buffet are enough to persuade me to recommend it to anyone in the area.I definitely think it is worth the trip. Doubly so if you are in the area to burn off calories in some outdoor pursuit.

The attention to detail was overwhelming. I appreciated the wide range of sauces and condiments, the crustaceans being prepared for ease of eating, and the items being carefully placed all over a table in a scattered but attentive way. It really sold the items to me. I didn’t INTEND on getting a creme caramel, but seeing them all over the table made me think about them lots, and I eventually caved and had one.

The ingredients were high quality, and some were even local, such as Valbella charcuterie (from Canmore). The produce was excellent, which was especially wonderful given the season and the isolated location of the hotel. Constant staff interaction (we saw many kitchen staff more than once during service) and item turnover kept the plates fresh and full. The idea of eggs benedict served buffet style sounds horribly amateur and a disaster, but the Post pulled it off. People tend to want huge selection and huge portions at a buffet. I think buffets are more spectacular when executed as the Post does: specialized items (ie., not a Japanese, chinese, Thai, Mexican etc etc section), quality and luxury foods mixed with old favourites and everything fresh fresh fresh.

While it may be a while before I can avail myself of the Post Hotel buffet brunch again, it it a memory that will linger a long time until I can return.

Post Hotel
Lake Louise, Alberta

The hotel also hosts a series of wine makers dinners in addition to the special buffets which are on most major holidays. The next one is Mothers Day.

Travels02 Apr 2010 11:59 am

It has been over five years since I last skied. In moments of terrible stress, I often reflect on a peaceful moment I had on the back bowl of Lake Louise many years ago. I was on a run by myself, surrounded by lush green conifers and deep, deep powdery snow. The trees were releasing an unearthly evergreen scent – one that makes the canned scent in spray cans or candles a joke. Everything was completely silent, the trees and snow cushioning all noise around me. It felt as if time stopped in that moment. It was extraordinary.

This weekend I scored rare time off and will use it to visit friends in Calgary and Lake Louise, and to go skiing again. I don’t know how it will go this trip. I’m older and wiser but also stiffer and more fearful. But I hope to have fun and to enjoy the view. It truly is one of the most beautiful areas in Canada. If anything I will simply enjoy having a weekend off work.

And even though watery generic brand hot chocolate and cheese and crackers can be heaven when you’ve spent the day skiing, I am looking forward to taking in the legendary Post Hotel brunch when we’re in Lake Louise, too.

I guess I’ll try to find time to squeeze in some watery hot chocolate at Temple Lodge during the ski day, too.