Story by Jody Robbins
BANFF, ALBERTA — Fine dining in the Rockies used to mean whipping up backcountry delights on an outback oven, or wowing campers with s’mores made of Bernard Callebaut chocolate. But all that changed when Eden came on the scene.
Combining fine dining, exemplary service and some of the most scenic views in Banff, Eden’s influences are French and its ingredients showcase the best of the Bow Valley.
Offering two-, three-, four-, six- and 10- course prix-fixe menus and a Grand Degustation 11-course menu, portion sizes aren’t overwhelming (phew) making it actually possible to work through such a series. Prices range from $64 to $197, with wine pairings optional for each.
Dinners begin with an amuse-bouche — a single, usually bite-sized hors d’oeuvres complements of the chef — such as a mini high tea service. Rosemary scones filled with porcini mushrooms and onion jam, crumpets topped with foie gras rabbit rillette and chèvre shortbread are served with a thyme-wrapped piece of hay (you’re in Alberta, after all) to stir in a sherry pear tea.
Then comes the bread. Normally, one wouldn’t mention the ubiquitous basket of rolls, but when yours comes from four different homemade loaves and three butter options — whipped olive oil with balsamic, goat’s milk and in-house birch smoked sprinkled with Hawaiian salt — it’s as exciting as the main event.
For those who can’t resist the combo of swine with seafood, Qualicium Bay Scallops dusted with sumac (a tart, sour lemon-tasting spice) are paired alongside Berkshire Pork Belly, for a savoury start, as is Albacore Tuna “Mi-cuit” (half cooked).
FINE DINING NEAR LAKE LOUISE
Choosing an entrée is often fraught with indecision, but out west it’s hard to pass up fresh Nova Scotia Lobster (flown in three times a week). And just to remind you that you’re in the woods, it’s served with a mini campfire: Douglas fir and rosemary needles upon which the lobster was grilled are ablaze on the plate, producing a heavenly scent and major presentation points.
Obviously, Alberta beef can’t be ignored by omnivores, so try Pura Vida Farm’s Angus Beef Trio, allowing you to sample choice cuts from one bovine end to the other. There’s cow tongue poached in duck fat, an oxtail spring roll and tenderloin rounding out the middle.
Onto the cheese course, where you choose from a selection of standouts, including: Cashel Blue, an Irish farmhouse cheese; pungent, semi-soft Taleggio (DOC); and Pont-l’Évêque (AOC), a washed-rind cow’s-milk cheese
To hit the sweetspot, go with the Cassis Opera Cake, which seems to have everything but the kitchen sink in it yet somehow works well. A thin wedge of almond cassis cake is topped with strawberry cloud, alongside peanut butter ice cream, chocolate pate and periwinkle-coloured candied lavender (think perfumed sponge toffee). Chocoholics do well with Bitter Chocolate Creme Frite, a deep-fried chocolate pudding on a bed of chocolate pop rockets laced with chai latte foam. Bliss.
Shortly after dessert, expect a liquor trolley to barrel out with tempting tipples from port to scotch to grappa and various liqueurs. And just when you thought you couldn’t possibly eat or drink anymore, there comes a final amuse-bouche, such as a hot chocolate shooter with bone-marrow beignet.
After such a delectable feast and the final blow from the liquor trolley, you should bed down at the Rimrock. Where else can you stay and look down upon the tree line and the Banff Springs? We mean that only literally, of course.
The resort fits in harmoniously with the surrounding landscape, being carved into the side Sulphur Mountain. The main lobby and reception area is on the seventh floor and most rooms are an elevator ride down the side of the mountain.
The ninth floor, is reserved for Global Suites, whose occupants receive an additional 15% of food and beverages as well as turn-down service and complementary valet parking.
Most rooms have clever angled windows jutting to a triangular point, making you feel like you’re walking straight into the mountains, delivering magnificent 180-degree, eye-level views of the Bow Valley.
MORE ABOUT RIMROCK RESORT HOTEL
Location: 300 Mountain Avenue, Banff, Alberta (see map below)
Room rates: In April, the starting room rate for a weekend is $198 per night, but check online for special promotions or call the hotel directly (1-888-746-7625) to book. CAA/AAA members always receive 10% off the rate of the day.
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Note: Homepage image courtesy of the Rimrock Resort Hotel