Lake Louise – The Post Hotel
The Post Hotel and Spa in Lake Louise has been an institution for nearly four decades and is coming up on twenty-five years as a prestigious Relais & Châteaux property, one of only two in Alberta. From the minute you walk in the door, you are greeted with impeccable service that goes above and beyond your expectations. Owners and brothers, André and George Schwarz have worked hard to ensure their guests have the best experiences possible, and it shows.
Having grown up in Switzerland, André describes how he learned to appreciate good food and hospitality early in life, but never thought of doing it professionally. “I started out as a ski instructor when I came to Canada and we purchased the Post in 1978 with no formal training in the hospitality industry,” he says. They learned quickly, and have continued to grow, adding a spa to the property and hosting an annual wine summit where guests have the opportunity to meet some of the world’s greatest winemakers. Over the past 10 years the event has raised over $600,000 for the Alberta Kids Cancer Care Foundation.
As if that were not enough, they hold Wine Spectator’s “3 Glass Award” and have a wine cellar that is better than Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for any oenophile. Complete with 26,000 bottles and over 2,340 different labels, you’ll be spoiled for choice of options to pair with Chef Hans Sauter’s outstanding food. Also hailing from Switzerland, he has cooked all over the world, perfecting techniques and flavours that are showcased in his international menu.
If you are planning to stay a while – why not book a room while you are here? – try chef’s tasting menu, complete with wine pairings. Courses change with the seasons, and they source their ingredients as locally as possible, especially when it comes to products like Alberta lamb, venison and elk. The winter menu includes everything from seared scallops with tarragon couscous and lobster sauce, to medallion of white tail deer with Calvados game sauce and “Schupfnudeln”, a Swiss dumpling similar to spaetzle but larger. However, if you prefer less meat-centric offerings, be sure to ask for the vegetarian menu, available upon request.
Even breakfast at the Post is not to be missed. Their specialty is a delicious, soul-warming Swiss potato rösti, topped with a healthy amount of Gruyère cheese and eggs cooked any way you like them. They say it’s popular with the pre-ski day crowd, but it is surely just as well suited to fueling up before taking a fireside nap and staring out at the picturesque mountain view. Follow that with a massage in the spa and call it a day.
Kicking Horse – Eagle’s Eye
If you have never dined at close to 8,000 feet, it’s something to add to your bucket list as soon as possible. Atop the gondola at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, BC, about 3 hours from Calgary sits the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant. It’s the highest restaurant in Canada, but don’t let that shtick fool you. Unlike many novel or themed restaurants, the food at Eagle’s Eye is the real star – and it just so happens to come with a view that is near unbeatable anywhere in the world.
From your dining table, you can see peaks from 5 different national parks: Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Banff, and Jasper. Whether you ski or not, the views alone provide enough enticement to travel up for a meal. In the quaint but comfortable lodge sits everyone from skiers and boarders up for a midday lunch, to those who prefer the après ski over the skiing itself. Having a celebration? You can even stay the night in one of the Eagle’s Eye’s exclusive suites and have the restaurant all to yourselves Monday-Thursday evenings!
Every part of the décor at Eagle’s Eye lends to the rustic, mountain lodge feel. From the massive stone fireplace, to the specially made Native carving keeping watch over the room, to the chandeliers designed to look like eagle’s nests, you would never know that you were dining at the top of a ski hill and not in a 5 star restaurant.
The food keeps par with, if not exceeds the ambience. Sure you can order a burger if you just want something hearty and comforting to fuel you back up for an afternoon on the slopes, but from there you can choose between Alberta beef, Wagyu or elk. New menu additions for the 2014-2015 ski season include Smoked Duck Tagliatelle with red wine jus and parmesan, and a tasty Kale Caesar Salad with herb focaccia croutons, shaved Manchego cheese and crunchy prosciutto chips. Equally satisfying is the Tofu Noodle Bowl, featuring gluten-free, vegan “shirataki” noodles made from Japanese yam, that Chef Sylvan Bourget claims to be one of the next food trends. Coated in a richly, umami wakame seaweed dressing and stir fried with crisp vegetables, you won’t notice that there’s no meat.
Common to all of Chef Bourget’s dishes is a tight-rope balance of flavour and most importantly, texture. There are always elements of softness, crunch and chew to keep you going back bite after bite. Don’t forget the addictive shaved truffle fries and to start your meal with a sweet and refreshing ice wine martini. Or choose from three specialty Caesars for the perfect après ski bevi. Life at nearly 8,000 feet never sounded so good.
Photo by Mallory Frayn