Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Epicurious... in Banff

While in Banff for our anniversary weekend, Craig and I did our fair share of picnicking, feasting on the breads, cheeses, olives, fruit and granola we either brought or purchased at the market. However, on three occasions, we did dine out, and here is what we thought of our (limited) exposure to the Banff dining scene (I'll be listing them in reverse chronological order):

Our final morning in Banff, we went to Wild Flour, "Banff's Artisan Bakery Cafe" for brunch. I ordered breakfast, and Craig ordered lunch, so it truly was brunch. The place is tucked away off Banff's main street, but easily accessible (as is everything in this tiny mountain town). A dog-friendly venue, many of the people on the patio had their pups along with them. We managed to snag an outdoor table among the pooches before heading inside to order. I ordered the toasted breakfast sandwich and a latte. Craig got the half panini and the daily soup, a promising chipotle tomato. I found the breakfast sandwich to be very bland, and I understood why it was served with ketchup; even though I dislike ketchup on eggs, it would have been a vast improvement. The latte however was perfect. Craig's soup tasted like Campell's tomato soup with a bit of picante sauce added, and I could detect absolutely no hint of the smoky flavour indicative of chipotle. Just when I was thinking that Wild Flour is not so good with the food, I tasted Craig's panini, which was spectacular. When we return to Banff, I may head back to Wild Flour as I appreciate their eco commitments (plant-based "plastic" lids, composting, recycling, etc.) and the coffee was darn good. But I will still with the paninis. And their baked good looked mighty tasty...

On Sunday night, our anniversary dinner was at a most disappointing Chinese restaurant, The Silver Dragon. The menu seemed promising, with several authentic items listed. The view from the patio was spectacular. And the salt&pepper tofu appetizer was quite good. But the entrees were incredibly bland, atrociously so. My noodle dish was mushy, and the veggies in Craig's hot pot were obviously from a frozen "stir-fry" blend. I have had better food at Chinese buffets in strip malls in suburban Indianapolis. Do not go to Silver Dragon. It was the worst meal we have had in Canada 9thought the company was great and the dinner did not ruin our anniversary celebration).

However, on our first night in Banff, we had what was probably our best meal in Canada, at Nourish, a tiny vegetarian bistro tucked away on the top floor of a shopping mall off Banff Ave. Walking into Nourish, you immediately forget your are in a mall, as the funky, hippy decor (Batik fabrics, eclectic lighting, bold colors on the walls, etc.) transport you from a world of dreary consumerism to a land of culinary delights. When we saw the menu, we had a hard time deciding what to order. In most restaurants, it's easy, we order the one or two vegetarian items and that's it. But when the whole menu is veg, it's no easy decision. Ultimately, Craig opted for the shepherd's pie and I got the portobello burger. Both items had the most unusually delicious textures and explosions of flavour: the burger had brie, artichoke, and "wasabi ginger aioli" (OMG, yum!!!), and the pie was rich ans savory with nuts, lentils, carrots, coconut and a "strawberry pineapple puree". I also had one of Nourish's specially blended roibois teas, and Craig had a delightful mango peace frosty. We finished the meal with a spectacular bread pudding. Nourish may just be our new favourite restaurant in Alberta, indeed Canada...

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