Eating in Banff (aka: bison, bison, bison, elk)

I generally eat pretty well wherever I go on vacation.   Some advance planning of the “can’t miss” places goes a long way toward making that happen.  When I was doing my advance scouting for Banff, it became apparent early on that there wouldn’t be enough days in the itinerary to try all of the places that I wanted to.    Here are the highlights of a week’s worth of delicious food and drink.

I violated a key travel rule – never return to the same restaurant twice on the same trip.  I broke that rule because the food was so good on the first visit to the Bear Street Tavern and there was a menu full of things I wanted to try.   On the first visit, they were running a Thursday night special on their bison short ribs.  I saw this menu item arrive to a salivating customer at the table next to us as I was considering my order and it swung my decision.  These were incredible – enormous, meaty and tender with crispy bits of BBQ sauce clinging to the edges.  The beer off to the side is Tree Brewery Hop Head IPA from Kelowna, BC.  Ignore the salad in the picture (I sure did):

On the second visit to the Bear Street Tavern, I tried the bison pizza (sense a theme yet?).  Perfectly cooked crispy thin crust, a generous amount of smoked bison, onions and edamame beans.  Served with some chili oil and honey, this is one of the better pizzas I’ve ever had.  The beer is a full flavoured Irish-style red ale – Rutting Elk Red from Grizzly Paw brewery.

The night before my conference started, we marked my transition from vacation to work mode with a meal at the Bison Restaurant and Terrace.  Everything was delicious.  For starters: escargot for her, duck tacos for me (the red Saskatoon berries are my new favourite thing that I can’t get back home – similar to cranberries, but sweeter):

Main course: Striploin steak for her (my bite of it had my eyes rolling back in my head it was so good), bison burger for me (really, do you sense any trend with my selections so far?):

Not that there was any real need for desert after two wonderful courses of generous proportions, but we had to sample the gluten-free three-layer chocolate cake:

We moved down market (in a good way!) for Saturday night.  The Elk and Oarsman Pub on Banff Ave. features a gluten-free menu of bar snacks (something that’s hard to find here in Halifax).  Here is a picture of corn starch coated hot wings (or what’s left of them).  The beer is Kokanee, something I haven’t had in ages:

Realizing I hadn’t had any game meat in about 24 hours, I got a small order of elk nachos (there was no bison available):

Rundle Bar, Fairmont Banff Springs – We’re not the type to spring for $16 cocktails very often, but when you have a view like this, just consider the drink price to be part rent for the seat.  The cocktails were spectacular – the Wild Rose lemonade (rose hip, gin, homemade lemonade) and the Pomegranate Cucumber Mojito  were perfectly put together.   I’ll be sending the Fairmont a note to ask for the full recipe and measurements so I can recreate these at home (now if only I could recreate the view):

We popped into the Banff Wine Store to pick up a bottle of BC wine, something that is impossible to find here in Nova Scotia.  The store was wonderful and we had a great chat about Nova Scotia wines with the guys there, bragging up the upcoming release of Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 to them.  We settled on Cedar Creek Merlot from 2008 – delicious!

Top to bottom, it was a great eating trip.  Though I must confess, after all the red meat, my body started to crave vegetables during the flight home.

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