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Our Week in Banff and Canmore

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We just returned from a week in Banff. My husband was attending a conference at the Springs. There were a couple of receptions there in the evening and the conference provided lunch every day. It was all very "big hotel" until Wednesday evening. One of the big US sponsors put on an event and they must have blown the budget because it was fantastic. The food was amazing especially the lamb lollipops. New Zealand lamb cooked to perfection with a light, crisp crust. They were tender and juicy and melted off the bone. The spread was really top notch.

We ate out every night at some old favourites, which quickly fell out of favour and some new favourites which I am very excited about.

Coyote Grill - used to love it - not anymore. I had a pasta dish that was covered in thick gummy goop. Too much pancetta made the dish very salty. My husband had a tough steak, poorly cooked. The staff were bored and barely addressed us the whole time we were there. I noticed later that they are advertising for every position in the restaurant so they are probably just exhausted from double shifts.

Typhoon - Love love love the food at typhoon. The restaurant has changed though. It has a real party/bar atmosphere and there were a lot of people at the bar throwing back shots - including the staff - and this was on a Tuesday. The music is very loud and the food seemed secondary to the staff. They weren't that familiar with the menu or the food. Staffing is a huge problem everyone - I imagine it is even worse in Banff where there has always been staffing problems.

Now on to the good stuff . . .

We had a fantastic meal at Cilantro in Buffalo Mountain Lodge on Tunnel Mountain Road. The wine list was amazing with some gorgeous wines from New Zealand. We shared the antipasto platter for two and it was out of this world. Cilantro is in a tiny log cabin and oozes with atmosphere. Really amazing meals, top quality ingredients and very friendly service.

We also ate a couple of times in Canmore. Our first was The Quarry - excellent meal. High end atmosphere with very formal service. The meal was great. Excellent selection of wine by the glass. We shared the PEI Mussels and Frites with capers, butter, garlic and white wine for $13. Great dish. Perfect crunch combo of frites and fat juicy tender mussels cooked to perfection. I had the duck breast with butternut squash orzo $26 and my husband had the striploin $32. We were both very pleased with our meals but we did notice a couple of diners sending theirs back to the kitchen. One that I could see clearly was a gentleman had asked for his steak medium and it was clearly rare. No complaints from us though – I even had dessert which I don’t do very often. Crème brulee with vanilla bean – delicious.

The only other restaurant we had time for in Canmore was Trough. It is new in the location of the old Copper Door and before that The Peppermill. I wouldn’t worry though – this place is here to stay even if the location is not the best. It is only one block off the main street but it is an odd spot facing on an alley. Anyhow, the restaurant itself is comfortable and has what looks like a great summer deck out front. Most of their ingredients are organic and as local as possible much like the Quarry. The atmosphere is a bit more casual and warm and friendly though. The staff were all very chatty and interested and during our meal there they all came by for a visit at least once. Excellent wine pairing suggestions from the staff as well – very knowledgeable. I had the wild salmon with pea shoots and lentils and my husband had a steak – again. Cooked to perfection and served with some beautiful roasted beets. Weird music though. New age disco I think. A bit off putting but the food was worth putting up with it. Way too full for dessert but the dessert menu was very tempting. Next time – on the patio!

If you are in the Banff Canmore area I would also recommend the lamb burgers at The Banff Maple Leaf restaurant. Yummy with pesto and a huge slab of melting brie. Breakfast at Melissas is always good. Order your eggs cooked a bit more than you like though. I had to send mine back twice. Once on Eggs Benny – runny I get, raw I don’t eat, and the next day when I ordered poached medium and they were served runny and raw. I think the kitchen is just busy and working fast to get customers served. Still the most popular breakfast spot in Banff.

We stayed at the Banff Rocky Mountain resorts which I do NOT recommend but we have a time share there – long story. The rooms were just renovated, thank goodness – they were in very bad condition, so it was fine. Our suite had 2 bathrooms/2 bedrooms and a full kitchen. The living room has a fireplace and dining area. They claim to have hi speed wireless internet but you can only access it from the lobby – the signal barely reaches any of the rooms. The $75 fee on top of that is just rude! The rooms were not clean, the front desk staff were ALL new and inexperienced, and the same in the restaurant. Overall the place is and always has been extraordinarily poorly run.

One big surprise for me was the food. Normally I would never even consider eating there but on the first morning I thought I would pop over for a coffee – thin and tasteless, and juice – even worse. However, the breakfast I ordered was perfect. Fresh ingredients – mostly, very nicely presented and delicious. They obviously have hired someone who knows their way around a kitchen. I had bacon and eggs, oatmeal and ham/egg on an English muffin and my husband stopped by for a Denver which he loved over the course of the week and it was all very impressive. Kudos to Mike and the kitchen staff – the only good things at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort.

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  1. Thanks higgika! We always head right for Quarry when we go to Canmore- but it's always for lunch or brunch, and at this time it's far from formal, so I'd love to try it for dinner based on your review. Aren't their frites amazing?!?!

    Next time be sure to check out Communitea for coffee (or tea) in Canmore. Best coffeehouse between Cochrane and Vancouver. Synesso machine and Intelliigentsia beans (from Chicago and used by top-drawer coffehouses all over N America), and comfy chairs. Great space, amazing amazing coffee.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, we are planing our third trip to Banff this coming winter, and I am starting to collect good dining recommendations. I have never been to Canmore, but we definitely want to stop by next time, we heard very good stories about their good dining.