Ski season isn’t over – yet. There are still plenty of slopes to be had in Banff, Alberta…and gourmet fare to be consumed. For an après ski experience to remember, retreat to the Eagle’s Nest Dining Room at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge – Banff’s only “ski in, ski out” hotel in the park.
The buildings may have a 70s motif from the outside, but inside the renovated Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a trendy, upscale boutique hotel. At 7,200 ft above sea-level, staying at the lodge is a complete mountain immersion with incredible views over Lookout Mountain.
A 20-minute gondola ride whisks you from valley to village in the pristine environment of Banff National Park, populated more by wildlife than people. Despite this remote setting, fresh food is hoisted up the hill by means of heated trucks on tracks, snow cats, snowmobiles and the trusty gondola throughout the winter.
“We need to be very aware of what we have and what is temperature sensitive and get it delivered as quickly as possible,” says Chef Martin Brenner, who has been working there for the past decade.
With a contemporary Canadian focus, Chef Martin concentrates on creating bison, venison, elk and lamb dishes as well as seafood and pastas for Eagle’s Nest. “It’s great to be able to put the skis on and get a few runs in when it’s quiet,” he says. “It really helps keep you focused on why we are all here.”
What’s not to love? City parks have free wifi!
(Part Two of Three– there’s plenty to say about Moldova!)
Moldova was an unexpected treat. A beautiful tryst that swept me off my feet when I wasn’t paying attention (I was distracted by the wine.) I’m prone to crushes when I travel – without fail, during each trip I am scooped up by two admirers – a man, and a dog. (Given some of my encounters, I may argue that those are one and the same…) I think they take pity on me – I am usually lost, disheveled, and hungry. They give me what I’m after – food, comfort, safety. But Moldova was different, it spared me the drama that comes along with men and dogs, and simply bared her soul. I am forever grateful.
Moldova’s courtship was simple, she satisfied my cravings, entertained me late into the night, offered a warm smile, and dazzled me with character. She opened up about a tempestuous past, proved herself trustworthy, and we danced the night away. This is how a country steals your heart:
At home, we often hear of the 100 Mile Diet – a planet-friendly diet that encourages us to eat food grown nearby. Folks in Moldova puts this diet to shame with their version – a backyard diet. Traveling through villages and the countryside, I noticed that there are few backyards as we know them, instead yards were thriving, lush vegetable gardens. Front walkways were filled with pumpkins, squash and corn. Our meals were seasonally inspired, root vegetables, cabbages, apples and fresh cheese, all bursting with an absurd amount of flavour. Mystery stews, sweet black dates, rich desserts. Oh how I gorged. By the end of the week I was begging for my stretchy pants.
Oh, just a little more, it’s only wafer thin.
Just like many other skiers and snowboarders, I aspire to lose weight from all the outdoor exercise. However, the high altitude appetite coupled with top quality ski hill dining usually puts a pause on any diet regimen. Here are four elevated eateries that are tempting skiers with colorful cuisine and decadent desserts this season:
1. The 10th (Vail, Colorado)
The flamboyance of the mountain-modern interior at Vail’s The 10th is equaled by its quixotic cuisine and incredible mountain views. Executive Chef, Vishwatej “Vishu” Nath describes the concept as Modern Alpine, reflecting mountain fare from France, Switzerland, Italy and Colorado.
“The flavors are delicately balanced against one another to create a thoughtfully crafted meal,” he says.
Trained in Geneva, Nath brought with him a host of helpful hints for mountain catering as well as bold flavors from his Indian heritage. At 10,250 feet above sea level, though, everything is affected by altitude, one of the bugbears of mountain cuisine.
“Bringing food to The 10th is a three to five day process,” says Nath.
Cooking times have to be adjusted for altitude and occasionally the staff has to learn by mistake – such as don’t leave out dough in the high altitude sunlight.
“We came back in the next morning and the whole table was covered in the yeast dough and the kitchen had a bad stink to it for a couple of hours,” says Nath.
Although I-70 closures can prevent important deliveries from timely arrival, there are plenty of local grocery stores to supplement ingredients.
“We have to feed our guests,” says Nath. “We certainly do a lot cross utilization of products due to availability, space and most of all delivery logistics up to the mountain.”
This includes salad dressings which are able to cross over from lunch to dinner. Similarly elk and buffalo meat are used in both meat loaf and Bolognese recipes for lunch.
“We add more ingredients to the dishes to elevate them and use them for dinner as well,” Nath explains. “We have to be creative in changing things up.”
With its panoramic views over the snowy Gore Mountains, the onhill restaurant is flexible, too, in catering to differing needs throughout the ski day. Lunch needs to be quick so skiers and snowboarders can get back out onto the slopes; après ski is a more leisurely but casual fireside experience; and dinner has to be an “any occasion experience” with some people coming in ski boots (there are cozy slippers provided) and others dressed to celebrate. The good news is The 10th is also open for non-skiers via Vail’s Gondola One and the lift is free from 4pm. (more…)
(Part One of Three– there’s plenty to say about Moldova!)
I had a hunch when the itinerary said I’d be in a wine cellar at 9am the following day that this was going to be good. I had no idea. Welcome to Moldova.
“I Love Moldova” Absolutely.
I’ll be honest – I had no idea what a Moldova was. A sweet dessert? An astronomical event? A fine hat worn by the likes of Humphrey Bogart? The truth is, when the opportunity for the trip came up, I said “Yes, of course, I’d love to!” and then quickly talked to my dear friend Google. “What is Moldova?” I asked.
Parts of Moldova are accessed via time machine.
And it’s easy to find the facts and figures about Moldova. Google told me all about how it’s a wee country snuggled between Ukraine and Romania, that it’s a former member of the U.S.S.R, that it’s on the path to joining the European Union. There’s talk of borders, uneasy relations with Russia, stories of the struggle for independence.
But there are plenty of things Google seems to skip over, things that make Moldova shine. Let me share a few with you:
It’s A Sommelier’s Paradise
This was just the beginning…
My wine knowledge is somewhat limited, despite my vast experience consuming it. I know how to say “yes please,” and “just a splash more?” I remember the pretty labels of bottles I like, but can’t tell you if it was a shiraz or a malbec. (Oh look! Apparently I know some of the words too!)
But I can tell you, the wine in Moldova is far beyond delicious. I had to drink a tremendous amount of it just to be sure – and I promise you, it is scrumptious. For some reason, my notes from the numerous winery tours are a bit blurry, but I’ll do my best to share some highlights:
Cricova – an absolute must-see. The little town of Cricova needed limestone to build their homes, and nearby capital city, Chisinau. So, they started to dig. And dig, and dig. Soon, they had 80km of underground tunnels. Dark, damp, and cool. Then one day, a genius (or possibly a miner with a bottle of wine in his lunchbox) made the brilliant connection – wine likes dark, damp and cool spaces. And voila – a huge, underground wine cellar was born, home to wines from all over the world, some bottles are over 100 years old. They make tasty wine too, keeping over 500 hectares of their own vineyards. Step into one of their gorgeous tasting rooms for a sample, or six.
Roaming the underground streets of Cricova.
Here’s the fun part – the wine cellar is actually a series of underground streets. Hop on their trolley, descend 280 feet underground, and take a tour along streets named after wine – Strada Sauvignon or Strada Cabernet, neighbourhoods of merlot, pinot. It’s a labyrinth and I can’t imagine a more exceptional place to get lost. I tried really hard, but they kept finding me. (more…)
There’s a ton to do and see in this tiny country with a big backyard. It’s home to the talented singer Bjork, and a sanctuary for Damon Albarn of Blur. Plus, Iceland is one of the best places to spot the Northern Lights, and has one of the most famous geothermal spas in the world. Need I say more?
When you visit Singapore, one of the flashiest tourist traps is trying a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar. Located in the Raffles Hotel, the Long Bar claims to be the home of the Singapore Sling: a drink made with (but not limited to) lime juice, dry gin, cherry brandy, Cointreau, Benedictine, pineapple juice and various other bitters and what have you’s.
As you can tell, I am not a specialist in alcoholic beverages, but I do know the Singapore Sling is known for its sweet and sour taste profile. To make a quick version of the drink, a sweet and sour mix can be used instead of the numerous above. Overtime and with many tourists, I suspect this is what happened to the Singapore Sling at the Long Bar. When I tried the drink, it tasted more like it had been pumped from a slushy machine from a convenience store. (more…)
Looking to get locked in for life with your lover? Do it on a bridge in Paris.
Outside Notre Dame Cathedral, thousands of couples are writing their names on locks, securing them to the bridge’s fence, and tossing the key into the Seine below. C’est tellement romantique, non?
Well, not everyone is swooning over this site. It’s driving Paris city officials crazy. Bureaucrats aren’t exactly loving the locks because “they raise problems for the preservation of our architectural heritage.” Despite unsuccessful attempts to remove the locks, the lovers just keep coming back in droves.
So far, Parisian bureaucrats haven’t been able to overcome the power of love, and the bridge remains love-locked.
Newfoundland had long whispered my name. I can’t decide whether it was the foggy, jagged coastlines, bohemian-coloured homes, witty humour, or I-have-no-idea-what-he-just-said colloquialisms, but I got myself sucked right in. And yep, I even kissed a giant dead fish. I’m not exactly sure why, but I blame the Screech. Oh, the Screech.
Oh but how can I choose just one?
It was a girly escape. Three friends had fallen in love with the rock during a visit last year. Fallen hard. Like your first chocolate croissant kind of love. They came back gushing – the bands, the boys, the beauty. I had to see what the fuss was all about. So, when they hatched a plan to return to St. John’s, I twisted around my east coast plans so I could crash their party. And oh how we partied – I was there for five days. I believe I squished in 12 days of drinking, staying up past my bedtime, exploring and wandering. Sleep is highly over-rated when surrounded by such brilliance.
Seriously. I think they’re hogging all the pretty.
We were based in St. John’s, but put a ton of miles (erm, kilometres, I am a Canadian girl..) on the rental. We fell exhausted into silky soft sheets at the Sheraton St. John’s - lovely digs, worth it entirely for the banana bread at breakfast, everything else is sugar on top.
Where to even start? Right in St. John’s you’ll be scraping your jaw off the ground. Whether you’re hiking up Signal Hill, strolling out to The Battery, or trying to decide what colour your Jelly Bean Row house will be, there’s plenty to delight you.
Yep, you can spot this while roaming around the city.
Venturing further from the city, you can check out Brigus, Quidi Vidi, and take the Irish Loop to Ferryland. (more…)
Looking to get the mojo flowing with your honey? With V-Day just around the corner, here’s a brilliant idea: book a winter getaway to Niagara on the Lake!
It’s a quaint but charismatic corner in the Niagara Region, with three Vintage Hotels are situated in the vicinity. If you’ve never stayed at a Vintage Hotel, you’re in for a treat. This boutique hotel collection is a haven for romance and relaxation: luxurious rooms, soothing spas, and rich dining experiences. It’s also an ideal location for a quick escape given the hotels’ proximity to historical attraction, the Shaw Festival, local wineries, and Niagara Falls.
I visited Queen’s Landing for the first time in late December, expecting to be welcomed by the bleakness of Old Man Winter. Instead, there was a Georgian-style manor, looking regal facing the Niagara River. Drabness was non-existent – the lobby was flooded with natural light, and the hallways were adorned with festive décor, pink roses, and poinsettias. For guests who long for a dramatic entrance – you’ve got it. The sweeping Scarlett O’Hara staircase created an ambiance of grandeur in the hotel.
I love Ottawa. It’s beautiful and you can get anywhere in 30 minutes or less, your blood pressure in tact (I’m talking to you St. Clair Avenue). But there is one problem—the Pub Epidemic. The streets of Ottawa are lined with Irish pubs, one literally next to another. Sure, there are a few gems but overall it’s time to drop the college flashback. What do you say O-town? Let’s enjoy a drink and a meal that didn’t come from a freezer or tap. It’s time to go to The Shore Club.
Atmosphere is Everything
Located within the newly renovated Westin Hotel, The Shore Club is in the heart of Ottawa’s Byward Market. Designed to achieve an Art Deco Aesthetic, the space calls to the look and feel of the great ocean liners of the interwar era. Now in its third year of operation, The Shore Club is an established purveyor of mighty steak and wondrous seafood.
Inside the split-level dining room gives every table a private and intimate feel while a menagerie of pendant lamps candles and chandeliers radiate a warm romance. Patrons of the bar will find themselves under an ambient light installation encourages a confident, “I’ll have a Manhattan.” Under the bar lights, you can sip on one of many seasonal signature cocktails (ingredients made in house) or chat with the in-house sommelier to find perfect wine.
Where to Begin?
Equally excited about the food and drink, I sit down with sommelier and manager Jamaal to talk options. The list of signature fall cocktails offers a variety of sweet, savoury and sour libations. I order the Fall Fashion, a blend of bourbon Gluhwein (made in house), ginger syrup, pumpkin and bitter. My gorgeous husband sips a Dark and Stormy complete with Kichisppi ginger beer and decrees it an excellent match to the light and smooth calamari appetizer. (more…)