As you may remember, I visited a couple of Canadian cities last year. For 2016, our events season is in full swing and this past week sent me to Calgary and Banff. We flew to Calgary a couple of days earlier to ensure everything was in place. On our way there, to our surprise, we got food on the plane (had forgotten that we pre-ordered food with our flight). That was one of the best decisions we could have made because there wasn’t enough time before getting on the plane to grab a bite to eat and we got served food first, which was a bonus. This would be my first time in Calgary and Banff.
I spent most of the time at our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Calgary since that’s where our event was happening. We ate at both the hotel restaurants: Thomsons Restaurant and the Sandstone Lounge (there’s also an oyster bar restaurant that I didn’t get to try). Thomsons had a good buffet breakfast selection but it was pricey at $24. They had eggs benny to order and smoked salmon (see picture below). The Sandstone Lounge carried a variety of snacks and dinner options along with a good beer selection. The nachos were really delicious – the chip to cheese ratio was perfect and the cheese was layered. I also tried the pulled pork tacos with a light slaw on top, which was tasty but missing a crunch to it.
As for the banquet food, we got to do a tasting the day before our event and it was heavenly.
- Chorizo Meatball with Tomato Sauce
- Smoked Local Lamb Loin, Onion Jam on a Crostini
- Mini Haddock Fritter with Lime Aioli
- Summer Corn Chowder, Peas and Corn
- Chef’s Blend of Micro and Petit Greens, Sliced Strawberries, Pumpkin Seeds, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Roast Peppered Alberta Bison Tenderloin, Green Pepper Corn Jus, Potato-Mushroom Charlotte, Sauteed Baby Kale, Heirloom Carrots
- White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Prairie Berry Compote and Apricot Glazed Strawberry
Since the hotel breakfast was pricey, I needed to find a cheaper option and that’s when Chef’s Cafe | Market (101 6 Ave. SW) came into the picture. My colleague and I went on our the second morning and I got a bagel with cream cheese and the potato vegetable hash. It was nicely flavoured and within budget (paid $4.81 for the pair!!). The next day we went back and ordered what the two guys in front of us ordered, the chef’s special thinking it was the breakfast wrap. It turned out to be an omelette with potato vegetable hash again – it was still very delicious and I ate it all! It was a good meal to have before getting into the car and driving one and a half hours to Banff.
The drive into Banff started out uneventful but as we neared, we started seeing the mountains – granted it was raining/snowing so we didn’t see any of the peaks. It was raining/snowing, IN May, which was crazy and unexpected!! I’m really glad I brought a thicker jacket. The mountains, every direction that you turned, they were there. I couldn’t stop looking out the window and pointing at them – I was a child in awe and couldn’t contain my excitement, which is most of the time.
Built in the year 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel was styled after a Scottish baronial castle (according to their website). This can be seen throughout the corridors and rooms, which were all beautiful and luxurious. The staff were friendly, attentive and helpful; my clogged sink was fixed with one phone call. There were restaurants, shops and lots of meeting spaces inside the hotel and plenty of green space, hiking trails and nature outside. Upon meeting our catering sales manager for our site inspection, I could tell we were in good hands. She was pleasant in manner and easy going, which was very comforting for us since we would be working with her over the next couple of months to make sure our October conference would run smoothly. The tour of the hotel and the meeting spaces gave us a good sense of how long it would take to get to one room to another and where to place tables and have registration, etc.
After the site inspection, we went to the 1888 Chophouse since we couldn’t do a menu tasting – they had only released the banquet menu the week prior. I think we got the better deal because the food was exquisite.
- Bread: Rye, French Baguette and Sourdough with whipped butter and whipped butter with bone marrow (I have no words to describe how good the bone marrow butter was)
- Starter: Roasted Beet Salad (pecan, goat cheese, lemon, pear) and Alberta Beef Tartare (pickled Mann egg yolk, aïoli, potato skin)
- Entree: Brant Lake Wagyu 8 oz, 1888 Classic AAA Filet Mignon 6 oz, and lobster
- Sides: Roasted Asparagus with Shaved Parmesan, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, Cranberries, and Mac and Cheese
- Dessert: Sticky Toffee Pudding (Medjool dates, earl grey toffee, granola) and S’more Éclair (smoked milk chocolate ganache, graham crumble, vanilla marshmellow)
On top of the food, we also had champagne and wine. The company we kept was fantastic and the conversations were down to earth, definitely a night to remember! Stay tuned for more on Banff.