Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Banff, more French food & young love gone awry. Day 7.

Destination:  Cochrane, Morleyville & Banff
Book:  DH Lawrence~Women In Love
Films:  The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Sid & Nancy, Nil By Mouth
Daily km:  555
Caffeine, sugar & alcohol units:  7
Soundtrack:  Gloria Mass for 4 voices
Foodie #7:  Home Quarter Mercantile & Pie Shoppe
Foodie #8:  Afternoon Tea at the Banff Springs Hotel
Foodie #9:  Cassis Bistro

After another restless night with the industrial press going full bore across the parking lot, I took comfort with the leftover pizza at breakfast.  Press conference on the G20; the constant analysis of what your country achieved, if anything.

Toured the Widget Maker facilities in the early morning and met a few more people. I welcomed the opportunity to have a look 'round. Questions were not expected but I did nod in all the right places.  It seems there had been many visits to Hamilton at one time or another but all anyone remembered was the industrial skyline from the Skyway Bridge.  There have been some changes and there are better, more picturesque ways to get into the city.

Snook up the 1A and pit stopped in Cochrane.  The steady drops of rain tapped out a little morse-code to my bladder; I had to stop and take refreshment. Cochrane looks like a theme park with its facades, mercantile, art studios, restaurants and the ubiquitous kitchen store.  I had tea at Home Quarter which is part tea room and part vendor of all things Western.  The leather and suede contrast nicely with the floral walls, chairs and prints.  Excellent scratch soups and sandwiches.  Decided against the chaps, for many reasons.

Toured Just Imajan and had a chat with artist Janet Armstrong.  I’ll let her website speak for itself.

Off to Morleyville, site of a 19th century mission led by George McDougall.  As I approached the site, the Gloria Mass kicked into high gear and I took a moment to enjoy it.  The church is situated on an open, wind-swept parcel of land just up from the Bow River. McDougall was out walking in the depths of winter when he got lost in a snowstorm and succumbed to the elements; he’s buried on site.  Going forty miles out of your way would be easy enough to do; I looked around and there is nothing for miles.   The history of the site is well documented along with the early archaeology. It takes about half an hour to do a full tour.

Downtown Banff is a Western version of Niagara on the Lake; one shop after another with a restaurant thrown in every half block.  Not being a keen shopper and as it was raining, I headed for the Banff Springs hotel.

Dating back to 1888, the Springs offers just about everything tourists could want.  It's a cross between Scottish Baronial and Von Trapp.  We had the Swiss look at Lake Louise, here your hosts have a touch of Bavaria in the costumes. There is vast network of cavernous rooms, ante rooms, hidden alcoves, terraces, restaurants and lounges. 

The two-flights-of-stairs climb from the Rundle Lounge was a damn site more manageable than the Tea House at Lake Louise.  Went with Afternoon Tea but declined the optional DOM at sixty-five dollars a glass.  Started with a palate cleanser of berries followed by sandwiches of avocado cream cheese & cucumber, prosciutto w/fig, smoked salmon crostini & egg on croissant. Desserts were scone, chocolate cake, éclair and chai crème brulee. 

Here’s a very dark picture of my view; pity about the heavy cloud cover.  Pity I don’t play golf, either. It was a very civilized afternoon.

The hotel is a veritable warren and you could spend the day wandering its corridors and taking refreshment at the many restaurants and lounges.  I was reminded of Women In Love where the men take after-dinner wrestling in front of a great hearth; true Greco-Roman wrestling, not this silly modern business.  Love the movie.

It was Royal Mail back in the day.

Still raining as I pit stopped along the Bow.  Looked to be a very busy weekend ahead for the town and good luck to anyone trying to find a parking spot. Thought the car had been towed at one point.  I came back down a different road and the No Parking signs had gone up for tomorrow (unbeknownst to me).  Where the hell was the car?  My feet were drenched from the rain and I was in no mood to deal with a potential parking violation.

Drove back to town through a monsoon. I did mention how civilized drivers were on the Trans Canada however on this stretch of #1 it seems it is customary to do at least 140kmh during white-out rain conditions.  Slowing down is indeed frowned upon.

I had a reservation booked for dinner at CASSIS, but it took all my willpower to put myself together.  To dry off only to return to the down pour?  After driving through a stretch of restaurants, I reached what seemed like no man’s land. Had I gone wrong again? No. Much to my surprise.

I heard Cassis before seeing it as the front door was wide open giving the little space some much needed ventilation. There were a lot of people and owing to miscommunication, my seat was at the bar. It’s not quite sardine-like atmosphere; I suppose some would call it cozy.  A bar seat is OK if you’ve got something to look at, but, this is a very small bar and also serves as the coffee station.  All you’ve really got is a wall and the occasional flash of barkeep.  A silent French film loops on the far wall of the restaurant.  I was looking forward to this meal all day and I was a little taken aback by the talking, the music, the movie, the cold air drifting in through the open door not to mention that bar stool where my toes only just reached the foot rest.  That aside, the food was very good.  And the courses were nicely paced.  Cassis has a loyal following and it's easy to see why.

It’s poisson.”  Peter Greenaway’s The Cook… presents a different kind of French table where dishes are served to a discerning clientele.  The exception being Albert and his cronies.  Albert is not to be crossed.

What else but a Pimms Cup to start? And at last, steak tartare complete with egg yolk.  Delicious. Cassis is run by two brothers who are South France ex-pats.  They are going for simple food in the classic French tradition mixed with a little local flair.  The go-to dish is duck breast and it’s served with scalloped potatoes served in their own little pot.  I don’t like mash or scallops served in a blob on the plate.  Since there is always room for dessert, chocolate mousseline it was; a cross between mousse and crème caramel. Lovely.  Another two and a half hours well spent.

Required reading...

Back to the hotel and time to start loading the car for the off.  Made a couple of trips and was distressed to find Sid & Nancy in the parking lot;  such anger and rage.  He threatened to blow his brains out; she screamed at him to stop saying that.  They both erupted in tears, ruing the day they met. He threatened to put a gun to his teeth, she begged him not to.  It was endless.  What do you do in a situation like this?  Hardly the night cap I was looking for.  Things went quiet and there they were walking calmly into the hotel.  I thought they’d just pulled in to the lot to have a fight.  No, they were guests.  What kind of place am I staying in??  But that’s a situation that’s going to stay with you the rest of your life because like the movies above, the violence is cyclical.  By the conclusion of Nil By Mouth, it’s all happy families even though he put her in the hospital.  There they were admiring the new decor with the bruises a distant memory.  What is to become of our young heroes? 

Until next time.  Saskatoon bound.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Up The Ogden Road, Calgary.

After much ado with technical difficulties, the long awaited Day 6...

Destination:  Inglewood, Calgary Central
Book:  Russell Smith’s Young Men
Film:  Gosford Park, Peter’s Friends & other Big House movies.
Daily km:  30
Caffeine, sugar & alcohol units:  4 (not bad, considering)
Foodie #4:  Rouge Restaurant
Foodie #5:  Wilde Grainz Bakery
Foodie #6:  Coco Brooks Pizza

Snow fell in the country this week with 20 cm in some parts.  Like THIS IS ROCK SALT, I have managed to stretch the holidays out and roast the days as needed. Up the Old Ogden Road. Not a British protest song, but a highly efficient means of getting into Inglewood and downtown Calgary. Never mind the highway, the Ogden is the way to go.

Day six was intended as R & R.  After that trek up the side of the mountain, I received a memo from my lungs imploring me to have a bit of down time.  The memo read: a two and a half hour lunch is a perfectly respectable start to the afternoon. The burnout was coming and this was the day to take it easy. Enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with the BBC and the Globe & Mail; I do like finding the newspaper outside the door every morning. It’s been years since we took the G & M on a regular basis.  It’s the Arts section I miss. Tried to fool the coffee pot into thinking it was a kettle and flooded out the counter.  You can only drink so much bad coffee but the bagged tea isn’t any better. Found some kind of growth on the inside of my travel mug and decided to let the experiment continue a while longer. 


Started the day with a trip into Inglewood, a well-groomed suburb of Calgary.  I had selected Rouge which is billed as modern French fine dining. Took a very smooth drive through a quiet residential neighbourhood and secured a parking spot without the usual challenges of driving around the block for an eternity. ROUGE  is a converted Victorian house offering individual dining rooms or a large terrace overlooking the garden.  I think I’ve been very clear on the importance of not rushing a meal.  Rouge understands cocktail hour; I had the best martini of my life.  There was time to savour the drink while perusing the menu and taking in the garden and surrounds. Young Men is a collection of short stories exploring the lives of Torontonians who spend a great deal of time in bars quaffing martinis. In one scene, a character asks why we're all getting excited about what is essentially cold vodka (and perhaps an olive). Wine and other spirits figure prominently. 

What’s your take on vermouth? Is it worth the effort? A spoiler? Do you burn your glass or splash a few drops on the cubes? Are you a gin person?

A little dish of olive oil and house-made vinegar was brought to the table along with a warm, fresh roll that was served with tongues.  Bread rolls are tricky business and most restaurants offer up chewy rolls or dried slices of baguette which are carefully concealed underneath a napkin in the hopes that the linen will help retain some of the freshness.  I let my martini work its magic; was that a double?

First course was horseradish & citrus cured tuna with poke vinaigrette.  I had been on a tartare trend of late and was still striving for the classic beef.  This was very nicely done.  Second course was an enormous piece of elk paillard with fingerling potatoes and carrot. 

I get quite giddy with Big House dinners.  Always enjoy watching those late evening dinners roll effortlessly out (at least as far as the dinner guests are concerned).  Seven is a good course number.  We have a couple of local restaurants that would be ideal for a soup to nuts dinner.  Lord Darlington put on a fine spread and we had the bonus dinner in Gosford Park.  Peter’s Friends showed us a traditional English-heavy on the butter and cream.  And do you remember the Duchess of Duke Street?  The machinery at work for such an enterprise! 

Finished off with a green salad (including lots of nasturtium leaves from the garden) roast apricots, maple & white balsamic and local ricotta from Fairwinds farm; very creamy cheese.  Some restaurants have stopped sourcing locally.  When I spoke with the manager at Buchanan’s he said that they’ve abandoned local farms for their meats as their relationships hadn’t worked out and that their vegetables come from hot houses.  I had not heard great things about Alberta produce and winter was a time of scarcity. We were on carrot and potato here so you cannot go too wrong with that.

And finally, a hot cappuccino.  Like the bread roll, not all restaurants can pull off a hot coffee and it makes all the difference.  Like serving tepid soup, it must be fear of a lawsuit. Always eat your dessert then order coffee.  If it’s a large party, the coffees are lined up like soldiers until the dessert is ready and by the time it’s reached you, the heat is gone. Always wonder if the food ever arrived hot at Big House tables.  It’s a long way from the kitchen and by the time it was plated-all those shallow soup bowls with a single ladle of broth-there can’t have had much heat in it. I was quite comfortable and didn’t want to leave but I had an appointment with the Widget Maker for a little meet & greet and I wanted to stretch my legs first. 

With great reluctance, I made my way to town.  In good company with a deli and fine foods shop at one end and a kitchen supply at the other. I was very restrained in the kitchen store. Found another restaurant that came highly recommended-Jacqueline & Suzanne’s; put it in your back pocket as they do mostly scratch cooking. Across the street is WILDEGRAINZ bakery.  Breads, pastry and delicious shortbread-white chocolate and cranberry-what else? Nice stretch of well-maintained buildings and good reuse of older properties.

After ten years, it was time to scale the Widget Maker fortifications and put a few more faces to names.  Key thing when talking to new people: don't talk about yourself.  Try to pick something on the wall, their desk, their snacks and make that your go-to.  Only problem is when you've done this many times over you it seems like you’re nosy rather than interested.  And there is the question of how much people remember about you in the two minutes you spend with them.  Sometimes, despite being in regular contact throughout the year, if you’re out of sight you go right back to being "Who's this?" on the phone or "To Whom It May Concern" in an email.

We took dinner at Coco Brooks, purveyors of salads and pizza. Chose a delicious Spinach Grande pizza with lots of olives, cheese and red onions.  Coco Brooks has three locations with a slight lean to the religious right as indicated on the menu.  But don’t worry, the religion does not get in the way of the food.  (Unless you believe in divine intervention.) I didn’t know what I was getting myself in for as earlier in the day the restaurant had been described as a “pizza joint in an industrial estate”.  The food rises above its location.

Time to explore the downtown and with about two hours of daylight left, managed a few pictures.  Would recommend the slideshow at this point.  Pictures always lose a little clarity after the upload.  I've seen a lot of dark, fuzzy pictures appearing on blogs of late. Don’t be afraid to put on a light. Started in the West end and came across an independent bookstore, Shelf Life Books.  I was on the prowl for MFK Fisher; they had everything but.  The War Memorial park is a spit away and there were lots of people taking in the evening.  I was given the name of a very good French restaurant for Friday night and wanted to do a little reconnaissance.  We do not want a repeat of Wednesday. I found that I was walking in the opposite direction to what I wanted.  Came across the Lindt store along the route; I may have indulged in a truffle or two.  They carry a better selection than your basic department store which stocks only the red, blue, black and brown bags. And what happened to the Lindt Easter six pack eggs? Couldn’t find any back in the Spring.

Lots of wall art throughout the downtown. 

Pedestrian zones amongst some well-preserved buildings.

On my Foodie list was Manuel Latruwe.  Unfortunately, at the time of writing, they are still piecing themselves back together after the June floods.  I missed the quiches, pastry and house smoked salmon. One other place to mention is The Fine Diner.  Breakfast and lunch with house cured bacon, local eggs and coffee and homemade yogurt. So little time.

Knox United.  Big fan of old style churches; particularly the doors. Modern church design is rather uninteresting. 

Art installations throughout the city. Dollars were up for grabs a few years back through a downtown revitalization project.  Hmm, think I know where that could be used.

I’d taken coffee earlier and thought to write down the intersection.  And just as well; where was the car?  Lots of parking lots and they all looked alike.  I skirted the block twice over and after doubling back found what appeared to be my vehicle. 

Looks like I would be missing the Food Truck Rally on the weekend.  Not surprisingly, there are a lot of beef trucks.

Uneventful drive back to the hotel which made a change.

Settled down and the ghosts of industry past appeared at midnight. And once again, the I-Beam worked its way across the parking lot.

Until next time.  The mountains, afternoon tea and more French food!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Vincent Price Hallowe'en Cookalong-The House on Haunted Hill & Calf's Liver Marinee.

All that scotch and not a vol-au-vent in sight.

Let’s hope there were throat lozenges on the catering table; all that screaming must have taken its toll. When I was growing up we observed Bonfire Night. We ate Yorkshire Parkin, watched Catharine Wheels go ‘round and threw bodies onto an open fire.  How To Stuff a Guy was even on the curriculum circa 1977.  What fun.

However, we’re not here to talk about Mr. Fawkes but something far more sinister-that of Vincent Price’s Calf’s Liver Marinee. Perfect remedy for all the dark, cold and rainy days we’ve been having.

After a night on Haunted Hill, a hearty portion of liver is precisely what the good doctor would have ordered. (But then look what happened to the good doctor.)  Every home needs a vat of acid in the basement.


Very pleased with the results; the slab of red meat turned into this.  The liver had a nice tanginess to it from the full day vinegar & oil bath.


For 4 persons:

1.5 pounds calf’s liver
Sprinkle of salt & pepper
3 slices bacon
2 slices pancetta
1 onion, sliced
1 TBSP vinegar
1 TBSP olive oil
¼ C red wine

Wrap liver in bacon and secure.  Sprinkle salt & pepper.  Place over sliced onions and pancetta. Marinate everything in vinegar and olive oil for 24 hrs.

Cook in a 325 oven for 1 hr.

Add wine and cook further 20 minutes.

We served the liver on a bed of butter, garlic & olive oil sautéed kale with lots of roast potatoes and pearl onions.


You could pair anything from a Sauvignon to a Gamay here, but we went with a Pelee Island Pinot Noir.

And because more chocolate is always a good thing, we finished with Double Chocolate Death’s Head cake with pumpkin cream filling.


Here’s hoping you all had fun with your menus.
Please check out the following for more Vincent Price Hallowe’en dishes.