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Truffle Pigs: A Cautionary Tale

c
ChrisA Aug 17, 2009 05:35 PM

After repeatedly hearing about Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., a foodie destination, we went out of our way to stop there for lunch yesterday. This was an error.

We called the day before to make reservations and were told they didn't take reservations, but there wouldn't be a wait if we arrived after 1:00. We arrived a bit after one and were told there would be AT LEAST a half hour wait (the waiter emphasized `at least' with a grave expression). OK, waiting list. So we explored for fifteen minutes and stopped back to check on our spot, to be told by the waiter that he'd been looking for us and had given our table away. More waiting. We were then told the other waitstaff didn't know there was a waiting list and had been seating people as they walked in. This seemed to amuse the waitress, who cheerily told us "you have to work hard for your lunch here!" Almost an hour after we arrived we were finally seated: gourmet treats at last.

Except the lunch menu consists of pub fare. We ordered the daily special of salmon chowder, which was a huge bowl of salmon-flavored heavy cream dotted with a few Campbell's--style bits of salmon and veggies. Pretty tasty but pedestrian bison burgers and medium rare but tough-as-nails skewered lamb completed the meal, all slathered in way too much barbeque sauce and served with mountains of thin french fries. Overall, it wasn't terrible---for pub food, and not even upscale pub food. But we were expecting substantially better, and I expect much better service than the amateur-hour show at Truffle Pigs even from a pub, much less an allegedly upscale restaurant with "truffle" in the name no less. Perhaps the place comes into its own for dinner, but don't bother making an effort to come for lunch. In fact, don't go even if you happen to passing through Field at lunchtime.

On the other hand, today we randomly stopped at a place called the Heather Mountain Lodge for lunch. Not expecting much from whatever happened to come up on the highway at about lunch, we were surprised to find a nice patio overlooking gardens, framed by the Rockies. The menu looked pretty generic and we ordered safe dishes they couldn't screw up much, but I regretted not ordering something more elaborate when I noticed a chef going out to the garden to pick greens and herbs for our meal (we were the only people there). The food was modern, properly seasoned, very well-presented, very fresh, and not very expensive. This is what we were expecting and certainly did not get at Truffle Pigs!

  1. vanderb Aug 19, 2009 08:43 PM

    ChrisA, I too am sad to hear of your experience at Truffle Pigs. I've been eating there around 8 years, and although I agree the service has always been fairly casual and at times chaotic it used be a part of the laid back mountain ambiance. Finding and retaining staff in their location is tough, at least for the wait staff, they have traditionally had cooks who stayed much longer.

    I've had breakfast, lunch and dinner there on a very regular basis and never experienced anything close to what you had. I wonder if the owners were on vacation, they used to go somewhere about 3 - 4 times a year and left things in the hands of their backups... might be what you experienced, but I could be wrong (of course).

    This report won't keep me away from any meals at Truffle Pigs at any time of day.

    5 Replies
    1. re: vanderb
      felix the hound Aug 20, 2009 01:17 PM

      I agree . Their service style seems to match the attitude and temperament of their regulars. For instance, while we were there a group of six walked in through the side ( deck) entrance, sat down,and left after 10-15 minutes of being unnoticed. No one in the group attempted to get the attention of the staff that was working inside, something that probably regulars / foodies might be comfortable doing , but it is not something everybody would do.

      A sign at the main entrance asks arriving customers to wait to be seated, but there is a side entrance which has no such sign, adding to the confusion.

      But I can see how an unexplained wait for service can ruin the mood. We had one such experience last night at La Brezza in Calgary, where five of us waited more than an hour for our mostly pasta mains after the appetizer plates were cleared. The most infuriating part was that the staff were oblivious until they brought the bill. The food was decent but we did not enjoy it. Will not be back, unfortunately.

      1. re: felix the hound
        c
        ChrisA Aug 20, 2009 04:43 PM

        While it is true that the service disaster was off-putting, the relative objectivity brought by several days does not change my opinion of the food. It was comparable in ambition, execution, and presentation to, say, Earl's, or mildly upscale pubs. The dinner menu did look more interesting, but I can't image we'll ever give the place another chance.

        1. re: ChrisA
          m
          Mawson Plan Aug 21, 2009 05:44 PM

          I could well be wrong, but about a year ago (?) I was there and there was a new menu and look to the place. This was still the small corner store location. I talked to the server who I'm pretty sure told me there was new ownership. The food that day was good, but not as good. The last time I went back I found the food to be more in line with what ChrisA describes.

          1. re: Mawson Plan
            CriolloLover Aug 23, 2009 10:04 PM

            Apologies in advance for the rant:

            Truffle Pigs (the owners) moved their concept across the road to the defunct dining room at the Kicking Horse Lodge last spring when they took over the management and ownership of said lodge. Previous employees of Truffle Pigs took over the lease of the old TP location, and started up Cher Chez La Vache, while still running the general store and liquor outlet.

            La Vache is reasonable priced basic enjoyable after hike food. Albeit served at times slowly, but with little pretense. At Truffle Pigs you can expect, and have experienced, the same basic food that ChrisA describes, but at higher prices, with the same slow service you get across the road. Yet you can throw in the ridiculous attitude of the owners (the female host/front of house manager who used to be behind the till at the old TP has to easily be the most unfriendly restaurateur I've ever met) and could care less demeanor of the servers. Something about "Birds of feather..." comes to mind regarding the staffing.

            Vanderb - having frequented the town of Field for over a decade both climbing & skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer, I'm aware that the owners vacate once a year in the shoulder season. However even if they were away, what kind of excuse is that - oh, so sorry for the craptacular service but we had our "backups" running the show. Bah I say to Truffle Pigs. Generally I've found in my travels, it's best to go where the locals go, and La Vache has become that place.

            Let me end on a positive: Props to Eleven22 in Golden, as an alternative to both. Cool location (old house, with side garden/patio), great local art on the walls, attentive service, reasonably priced, and inventive food. My wife I cross fingers each time we go back that the Black Bean Chocolate Cake is on the menu.

            1. re: CriolloLover
              CriolloLover Aug 23, 2009 10:18 PM

              Forgot to add a new spot I recently found in Golden that's worth the detour away from the highway strip of grease purveyors into to town for lunch. The bookstore located on the main street houses an excellent little cafe:

              http://www.bacchusbooks.ca/cafe.php

              Huge portions, tasty, and great baked goods (the millet muffins are great). Not sure how long it's been upstairs, but I hate to think I've been going into that bookstore for awhile I didn't even realize it was there.

    2. m
      Mawson Plan Aug 18, 2009 03:55 PM

      About a year back Truffle Pigs was sold. I'm sad to hear its gone downhill.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Mawson Plan
        felix the hound Aug 18, 2009 04:39 PM

        Mawson Plan -What's the source for this information?

        Are you perhaps confusing it with the sale of the Kicking Horse Lodge to the owners of the Truffle Pig and subsequent move of Truffle Pigs into the Lodge ( a move of 50 meters accross the street )?

        We were there a couple of weeks ago and the staff and the owner look remarkably like the people in the framed group picture of all the staff in the old general store location which is hanging at the entrance of the new location.

        We had an excellent meal but service was basic, bordering on chaotic. I suspect that service and organization has never been their strength.While it is unfortunate that ChrisA had a bad experience I would not rush to proclaim it has gone downhill.

      2. l
        Leibowitz Aug 18, 2009 01:57 AM

        Yes, shame that, ChrisA. That's certainly not the experience I had last time (although that was in their old location in the general store - a much more casual environment).

        1. sweeterpea Aug 17, 2009 06:51 PM

          Sorry to hear of your bad experience. I would not have been happy to be treated that way either. We like Truffle Pigs, but don't find their food amazing -- our experience has been really good food, that goes down good after a hike or excursion. If you can, please give them another chance.

          On the opposite end, we had a bad experience at the Heather Mountain Lodge a few years back -- overcooked saw-dust salmon and stale "homemade" ice cream for dessert. They have a gorgeous view from the dining room, which is a nice surprise considering it's hidden when you enter the lodge. So, you can get mixed experiences at all restaurants.

          We've never been disappointed at the pub at The Post Hotel, ever. I would suggest going there -- the food is wonderful and done up by the same kitchen that cooks the high-end food. Our fave is the goulash and spatzle.

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