Great Food, Service at Canmore’s Market Bistro

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Market Bistro is a casual, fine-dining spot removed from the Canmore crowds

Now, this is what I call service.

We’re sitting inside The Market Bistro, a lovely little dining room sheltered from the madding crowds of nearby downtown Canmore, Alberta. I order an Alberta craft IPA, which the server says has orangey notes. That it does, but without the hoppy bite I’m expecting.

Upon her return, she asks how I like said ale. I give an indifferent shrug. Immediately, she whisks away the beer and returns with two other options, including a more satisfactory (from my perspective) Railway Avenue rye IPA from local Canmore Brewing Company.

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A fine rye IPA from Canmore Brewing

The exceptional service, from sharp-as-a-tack Brande, is just one of the details that makes Market Bistro a fine destination for a quiet dinner in the mountains. Another is the open kitchen, from which French-born co-owner and chef Anthony occasionally emerges to chat with regular customers.

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Great service from Brande

Most of all, of course, it’s the bistro-style French cuisine. It’s a step up from my usual cheap-eats meals but quite reasonable for the skill and time that goes into dishes such as chicken tajine and duck confit. Consider my exquisite beef back ribs ($27), braised for hours to fall-off-the-bone tender and served with Gorgonzola polenta, mushrooms and braised kale.

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Fall-off-the-bone braised beef ribs

Of course, you can’t finish a meal at Market Bistro without a slice of its famous lemon pie. Brande cautions other diners that it’s not the overly sweet confection they’re probably used to. Indeed, it has wee slices of lemon rind and a pungent flavour that lingers on the tongue.

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You haven’t had a real lemon pie till you try Market Bistro’s distinctive version

Lemony tones, certainly. Definitely not sending this one back.

The Market Bistro
102-75 Dyrgas Gate, Canmore, Alberta
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday 11 am-8 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-9 pm. Closed Tuesday
403-675-3006

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Chuck Out This Great Victoria-Area Burger Bar

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The bountiful burgers at Chuck’s Burger Bar, in Sydney, B.C., are juicy and flavourful

All too often in Canada, restaurant burgers are cooked to the edge of shoe leather. It’s no doubt the result of kitchens not wishing to violate government health regulations that stipulate burgers must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 71 C. (160 F.), eight degrees Celsius above medium rare.

So it’s a pleasure to discover a place like Chuck’s Burger Bar, in an industrial area of Sydney, B.C., near the Victoria airport and ferry terminal. Chucks manages to walk the fine line between burgers that are regulatory acceptable and still juicy and flavourful.

As the name suggests, it’s a spot owned by a guy named Chuck, and the predominant, half-pound burgers (about $9) are from fresh-ground Angus chuck, “grilled to medium.”

From a plethora of complimentary toppings, I choose pea shoots, sautéed onions and roasted garlic mayo, along with some sautéed wild mushrooms ($2.50 extra). It’s a delightful combination, with a shared mountain of Yukon gold fries ($5) and a local pint.

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Chuck’s is in an industrial area near the Victoria airport and ferry terminal.

Chuck’s is a small space that usually fills up quickly, this night with young locals. It’s a great, affordable place to get a last-minute bite before boarding a ferry or airplane.

Chuck’s Burger Bar
2031 Malaview Avenue West, Sidney, B.C.
Monday to Saturday 11 am-10 pm. Closed Sundays
778-351-2485

Get Sartori Harvest IPA Before It’s Gone. Oops. Might Already be Too Late

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Sartori Harvest IPA is a once-a-year fresh-hop beer

There’s nothing like scarcity to help sell a product. Just ask the single-malt Scotch industry, always happy to roll out a “one-time-only” cask of a peaty 12-year-old. Craft beer companies certainly play their part, with a roster of seasonal brews and one-off concoctions.

But when you can marry scarcity with a good story, you’ve really hit marketing gold.

Take the case of fresh-hopped beers, also known as wet-hopped or harvest ales. Typically, hops added to the fermentation process have been dried. But fresh hops are usually added within hours of being picked in the field. So by definition, fresh-hopped beers are only available during the late-summer or early-fall hop harvest.

Victoria’s Driftwood Brewery, perhaps best known for its fine Fat Tug IPA, has an entry in the fresh-hopped market: Sartori Harvest IPA. During the hop harvest at Sartori Cedar Ranch, near Chillwack, B.C. (just east of Vancouver), bags of Centennial hops are rushed to the brewery.

“It’s vital to get the hops into the brew kettle within hours of picking, while their oils and resins are still raw,” says a breathless video on Driftwood’s website. “This is our one chance to brew with the flower in its most natural form.” And, to rub things in: “Sartori’s fresh hops have a delicious profile unique to the patch of land they cultivate in the Columbia Valley, making this limited release singular and remarkable.”

I was already sold on this story, when a beer specialist at a Cascadia Liquor outlet in Victoria told me that Sartori Harvest had just hit the store shelves and would be sold out within days.

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Cascadia Liquour has a great selection of other 22-ounce bombers

$7 for a 22-ounce bottle? I’m in. I spent a good half hour letting the complexities of this ale roll around my mouth. And the next morning, I rushed back to Cascadia to pick up a couple more Sartoris to take home.

So what does Sartori Harvest IPA taste like? Guess you’ll have to wait till next year.

 

Fabulous Focaccia at Victoria’s Fol Epi

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Good luck not devouring this stunning focaccia—from Fel Epi in Victoria—in one sitting

I have a new favourite bakery treat.

It’s the focaccia bread at Fol Epi, a fabulous little organic bakery in Victoria, B.C.

It kind of resembles a little pizza—puffy and blistered and, when I ordered it, adorned only with slices of roasted chanterelle mushrooms. Anything more would be a distraction from this soft, chewy delight with its complex flavours.

I kept tearing off chunks of this simple masterpiece and stuffing them in my mouth. I wanted to save some for my host, but gluttony was getting the better of me. At $7, it’s a nice-sized lunch for one or snack for two… but, really, you don’t want to share this.

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Fol Epi is on a little Victoria harbour, next door to Caffe Fantastico Coffee Roasters

What makes the focaccia and Fol Epi’s other breads and pastries memorable is the attention to quality. Their heritage red fife wheat and rye grains, from Saskatchewan, are stone ground on site and the resulting loaves, baguettes, croissants, cookies and other treats baked in a wood-fired brick oven.

On the way out, I grabbed a lovely loaf of boule, a French country bread, to take back to my friend. Because the only thing left of the focaccia was crumbs.

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The boule was also exceptional

Fol Epi
101, 398 Harbour Road, Victoria B.C. (one other Victoria location)
Daily 7:30 am-5 pm
250-477-8882

Scenes From a West Coast Road Trip

 

Early morning light on Mount Temple near Lake Louise

Early morning light on Mount Temple, near Lake Louise

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The kiddies may be back in school but fall road construction in B.C. carries on

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Taken to its logical conclusion, doesn’t this mean no one should pass?

La Baguette muffin

How fruit muffins should be stuffed. The incomparable La Baguette in Revelstoke

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Only in Tofino

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No words required

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Must have arrived in the dark

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The best coffee shop mugs in the world: By Katy Fogg, at Tin Town Cafe in Courtenay

 

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Why I go to Vancouver Island’s west coast in the fall

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Beats this October 4 return to Calgary

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It’s been a strange fall

Fresh From the Fryer Doughnuts in Edmonton

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A sumptuous, Portugese-style doughnut at Edmonton’s Ohana Donuterie

I’ve had a lot of food made to order. Which is the way, for the most part, it should be.

But never doughnuts. Not that I ever eat them; their doughy sweetness sends my blood sugars soaring.

Still, when we walked into Edmonton’s Ohana Donuterie and saw that the doughnuts are not fried until you order them, we figured we had to give it a shot; two bites in my case.

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You can eat in (preferred) or take out

These are not your conventional doughnuts. They are called malasadas, a Portugese-derived yeast doughnut, rolled in sugar, that’s also popular in Hawaii. At Ohana’s, you can get them filled—in our case, with a simple vanilla cream.

And really, you don’t want to complicate things. You want to concentrate fully on these puffy, soft, yummy bombs.

While some folks were ordering them to go, they are best consumed at a table, warm from the fryer and perhaps chased with an espresso. They are also pretty substantial; a single doughnut is a fair-sized snack, costing $2.75 if filled.

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This is where the doughnuts are fried to order

Ohana is a year-old partnership of two guys, Adam and Kevin, who started with a food truck and added a fixed, hole-in-the-doughnut location in Edmonton’s Strathcona district. It’s a good thing I live in Calgary.

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The hole-in-the-doughnut location near Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue

Ohana Donuterie
10347 80 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Monday to Thursday 8 am-9 pm, Friday 8 am-10 pm, Saturday 9 am-10 pm, Sunday 10 am-9 pm
780-777-1322