Category Archives: Lethbridge

Lovely New Lunch Spot in Lethbridge, Alberta

Bread Milk & Honey is a lovely, renovated lunch spot in Lethbridge, Alberta

Bread Milk & Honey is a lovely, renovated lunch spot in Lethbridge, Alberta

Here’s another brave soul taking over a beloved restaurant personified by its longstanding owner. In this case, the location is Lethbridge, Alberta and the new restaurateur is Michael Knipe, who bought the Round Street Café a few years after moving from South Africa to Canada.

He takes over from Bonnie Greenshields, revered as much for helping feed the city’s homeless as producing superb sandwiches and pies. But after a decade, she wanted to sell.

The resulting Bread Milk & Honey, which opened in August, is a mix of new and old. The downtown restaurant has been thoroughly renovated, and a lovely space it is, with high ceilings, lots of light and gorgeous wood paneling along the counter.

Manager Susan Roberts and owner Michael Knipe

Manager Susan Roberts and owner Michael Knipe

Knipe was smart enough to retain popular menu items like the signature chicken, brie and avocado sandwich. Just about everything is made from scratch, including daily soups (like Hungarian mushroom, cream and barley) and a spinach salad where the chicken isn’t grilled until the order is taken.

The chicken breast for this spinach salad isn't grilled until the order is taken

The chicken breast for this spinach salad isn’t grilled until the order is taken

One change is a decided emphasis on good coffee, whether it’s a carefully pulled shot or a pour over.The java goes down splendidly with a new item, a South African milk tartlet sprinkled with cinnamon.

The only thing I’m not wild about is the rather generic name, though apparently it’s the same as that of a café he started back home in Cape Town. But overall, I love the attention to detail and excellence, from the food to the décor.

Bread Milk & Honey
427 5 Street South, Lethbridge, Alberta
Weekdays 7 am-4:30 pm, Saturday 9 am-3 pm. Closed Sunday

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My Best Road Trip Meals of 2013: Part 1

Even the hard-working cooks have fun at Pete's Breakfast House in Ventura, California

Even the hard-working cooks have fun at Pete’s Breakfast House in Ventura, California

What happens when you hit a couple of hundred independent diners, cafes, coffeehouses, bakeries and breweries in the western U.S./Canada in one year? An ambulance ride to emergency? Fortunately, no. Instead, I got to discover some great places to eat and drink, run by some seriously committed, wonderful people. Here are the best of 2013, in two parts.

Best Breakfasts

My best 2013 breakfast is the day’s locovore omelette at Chow in Bend, Oregon. Perfectly prepared, it features chicken-apple sausage, caramelized onions and local chanterelle mushrooms and cheese. What puts it over the top is the choice of three bottles of house-made sauce of varying intensity, so good I buy two bottles to go.

My best 2013 breakfast is the locovore omelette at lovely Chow in Bend, Oregon

My best 2013 breakfast is the locovore omelette at lovely Chow in Bend, Oregon

Pancakes: The pancake sandwich—bacon atop buttermilk blueberry cakes and, underneath, two over-easy eggs—at Pete’s Breakfast House in Ventura, California. Great vibe ups the ante.

Delicious blueberry pancakes over eggs at Pete's Breakfast House in Ventura, California

Delicious blueberry pancakes over eggs at Pete’s Breakfast House in Ventura, California

Breakfast Sandwich: Sometimes, all you want for breakfast is an egg or two between two slices of a bready product. But at Tweets Cafe in tiny Edison, Washington, the breakfast sandwich is a work of art, with a mini salad on top, a slice of melon bursting with flavour and perfectly cooked eggs and ham atop a home-baked biscuit.

The breakfast sandwich in the hands of an artist at Tweet's Cafe in Edison, Washington

The breakfast sandwich in the hands of an artist at Tweet’s Cafe in Edison, Washington

Off the Radar: How about a breakfast burrito of smoked turkey, avocado, egg whites and a hash patty, chased by an invigorating iced drink of protein powder, espresso, peanut butter, banana and chocolate? It’s all on the healthy menu at D’Lish Drive Thru in Scottsdale, Arizona, along with a free dose of off-the-wall friendliness.

This excellent AZ Burro is one of many creative, healthy breakfast choices at D'Lish Drive-Thru

This excellent AZ Burro is one of many creative, healthy breakfast choices at D’Lish Drive-Thru in Scottsdale, Arizona

Best Coffee

In a year when I visit the coffee meccas of Seattle and Portland, it’s a roaster/coffeehouse in little Lethbridge, Alberta that serves my two best cups of coffee, one by Chemex, the other by Aeropress. Cupper’s Coffee & Tea‘s slightly darker roasts are so good, I’ve been ordering their shipped beans instead of just roasting my own.

Cupper's owner Al Anctil and the sophisticated roaster he helped build

Cupper’s owner Al Anctil and the sophisticated roaster he helped build in Lethbridge, Alberta

     Honourable Mentions: The espresso at Portland hole-in-the-wall Spella Caffee holds my tongue in a lingering, smoky embrace. My best coffee experiences are in Seattle’s also tiny Moore Coffee Shop—where I sink into a leather chair and savour a fine Americano served with a square of complimentary chocolate—and the funky vibe of Lux Central in Phoenix. I also have to include Nobrow Coffee Werks, in the coffee mecca of Salt Lake City (just joking) for the most sophisticated brewing machine, the Steampunk, I’ve ever seen.

Joe Evans and the very latest in custom-brewed coffee at Nobrow Coffee Works; I'd say this is high brow

Joe Evans and the very latest in custom-brewed coffee at Nobrow Coffee Works; I’d say this is high brow

Best Bakery/Café Santa Fe’s Clafoutis has a full-fledged menu, but it’s the ethereal croissants, brioche and baguettes, along with great coffee, that bring me back for more at this elegant, oh-so-French café.

A stack of baguettes amidst all the creative elements at Clafoutis in Santa Fe, New Mexico

A stack of baguettes amidst all the creative elements at Clafoutis in Santa Fe, New Mexico

      Honourable Mentions: Last year’s pick, La Baguette, in Revelstoke, B.C., keeps knocking it out of the park with things as simple but outstanding as Healthy Bread, its take on toast. San Francisco’s famed Tartine Bakery & Cafe lives up to the hype with brioche bread pudding and gorgeous gougère.

Gorgeously gooey gougere at Tartine Bakery & Cafe in San Francisco

Gorgeously gooey gougere at Tartine Bakery & Cafe in San Francisco

Best Sandwich The sandwich is a road-trip lunch staple, but it’s rarely raised to an art form like the Oxacan— shredded mole chicken, avocado, goat cheese and apple, served on lovely seed-crusted ciabatta—that I’m served at the fantastic Curious Kumquat, way out in Silver City, New Mexico.

This shredded mole chicken sandwich makes the drive to Silver City, New Mexico well worthwhile

This shredded mole chicken sandwich makes the drive to Silver City, New Mexico well worthwhile

     Honourable Mentions: My steak sandwich at Longview Steakhouse, in the ranch country of Longview, Alberta, is really a huge, superb strip loin on an overwhelmed single piece of bread, though the latter does soak up all the juices. In the heavyweight sandwich battle, my mortadella with all the fixings at Compagno’s Delicatessen, in Monterey Bay, California, reaches a sleep-inducing draw with the turkey-bacon monster at Sandwich Spot, in Palm Springs, California.

I gave half of this monster, fab $8 creation from the Sandwich Spot to a passing street person in Palm Springs, California

I gave half of this monster, fab $8 creation from the Sandwich Spot to a passing street person in Palm Springs, California. Kept us both fed for a day

Best Burger

A tie: Bobcat Bite has left its character-filled old adobe building and morphed into Santa Fe Bite, but it’s still pumping out its signature green chile cheeseburgers. Diablo Burger sources its natural, lean meats from open-range ranches near Flagstaff, Arizona. Both places offer their thick patties medium-rare.

The name and the location's changing, but there's no disguising these fantastic green chile cheeseburgers at Santa Fe Bite

This fantastic, medium-rare green chile cheeseburger, at Santa Fe Bite, is at least three inches thick

     Honourable Mentions: In the Asian fusion category, my fine wagyu burger at Bachi Burger in Las Vegas is edged by the Loco Moco—a Kobe patty over rice and Japanese mushrooms and topped with a sunny-side egg—at Carino Bistro in Calgary, Alberta.

Who needs a bun when you can have a Kobe patty atop rice and Japanese mushrooms at Carino Bistro in Calgary, Alberta

Who needs a bun when you can have a Kobe patty atop rice and Japanese mushrooms at Carino Bistro in Calgary, Alberta?

Best Vegetarian

Yes, I probably eat more burgers than salads on the road, but I’m by no means averse to vegetarian or even vegan so long as it’s tasty. It’s no surprise that in the running capital of Eugene, Oregon, healthy folks head to Morning Glory Cafe for tofu scrambles, black-bean burgers or my baked squash mounded with chanterelle mushrooms, brown rice and goat feta.

This baked squash mounded with goodies made for a healthy lunch at Morning Glory Cafe in Eugene, Oregon

This baked squash mounded with goodies makes for a healthy lunch at Morning Glory Cafe in Eugene, Oregon

Best Pizza

Among the many contenders, my top pick is Pizzeria Seven Twelve, in Orem, Utah, where the focus is on fresh and simple but creative ingredients like hand-pulled mozzarella, house-made sausage, roasted fennel and a thin, bubbly crust with a nice tangy flavour from the sourdough starter.

Simple, house-made ingredients make this sausage and fennel pie a standout at Pizzeria Seven Twelve in Orem, Utah

Simple, house-made ingredients make this sausage and fennel pie a standout at Pizzeria Seven Twelve in Orem, Utah

     Honourable Mention: At neighbourhood pub The Flying Goat, in Spokane, Washington, my Kiernan pie is layered with Italian sausage, heavy cream, an over-medium egg and some truffle-oil tossed arugula.

Italian sausage, heavy cream and truffle-oil tossed arugula add up to a winner at The Flying Goat in Spokane, Washington

Italian sausage, heavy cream and truffle-oil tossed arugula add up to a winner at The Flying Goat in Spokane, Washington

Best Salad

Salt Lake City’s gorgeous Finca creates a work-of-art beet salad, with a velvety house ricotta base, a ring of beet chunks and a middle tower of argula topped by macerated strawberries and toasted almonds.

This arranged beet salad, at Finca, is almost too pretty to eat... almost

This arranged beet salad, at Finca, is almost too pretty to eat… almost

In Praise of the Simple Coffee-Making Aeropress

The Aeropress is the brew method of choice at Phil & Sebastian's new Calgary coffeehouse

The Aeropress is the brew method of choice at Phil & Sebastian’s new Calgary coffeehouse

In the high-tech coffee world, cafes spend thousands of dollars on fancy machines to produce perfect cups of espresso or drip java. Yet a $25-35 plastic tube is increasingly elbowing its way into the mix at highfalutin coffeehouses.

It’s called the Aeropress, invented by Alan Adler, who also came up with the Aerobie flying ring. I do the Aeropress a bit of disservice. It’s actually two plastic tubes, one rubber-bottomed tube fitting tightly inside the other. There’s just one other piece, a black plastic cap, with a bunch of small holes, that screws onto the bottom of the larger, outside tube.

Here’s essentially how it works. Place a thin, circular paper filter inside the black cap and screw the latter on to the outside tube, placing said tube on a warmed-up cup. Dump freshly ground coffee (16 to 22 grams, depending on cup size and strength preference) into the tube and pour near-boiling water to almost fill the tube. Stir, wait a bit and then push the rubber-bottomed inner tube to the bottom of the outer tube, expelling the coffee through the filter into the cup. It takes a surprising amount of force and time, about 20 seconds, to push the liquid through.

David preparing an inverted-style Aeropress drink at Cupper's Coffee & Tea in Lethbridge, Alberta

David preparing an inverted-style Aeropress drink at Cupper’s Coffee & Tea in Lethbridge, Alberta

The Aeropress has been around for nearly a decade. But maybe because it was so simple or/and coffeehouses had invested so much in expensive machines that it’s taken awhile to win more widespread commercial appeal. But that’s certainly changing. Indeed, I saw Aeropresses being used in three upscale southern Alberta coffee shops in the past couple of weeks.

“It’s incredibly simple but brilliant in the way it works,” says Phil Robertson, co-owner of Phil & Sebastian, which uses the Aeropress to make individually brewed cups of coffee at one of its three Calgary coffeehouses. He loses me when delving into the details of things like the backpressure created in the tube. But the essence is the Aeropress produces a great cup of coffee. I like making it super strong and adding hot water for a potent Americano.

A little chocolate cake? No, it's the thick puck I produce from the Aeropress grounds when making my potent Americano

A little chocolate cake? No, it’s the thick puck I produce from the Aeropress grounds when making my potent Americano

Now, as in anything coffee related, there are many nuances in the way various shops use the Aeropress. Some prefer paper filters, others metal. Some like a coarser grind, others a finer one. Some like the standard method, others an inversion technique. Brewing times may vary.

But the beauty of the Aeropress, beside the low cost, is the simplicity of its use. The average coffee drinker using a home espresso maker is at a considerable disadvantage trying to compete with a skilled barista manning an industrial espresso machine. But with a quality bean and a wee bit of practice, home users can pretty much match the Aeropress results of the pros. A bonus is the workout you get doing those one-armed “pushdowns”.

So when you hear coffee connoisseurs talking about espresso “pulls”, don’t be surprised if they also get into Aeropress “pushes”.

Lovely Lethbridge, Alberta and its Surprising Food Scene

The spectacular High Level Bridge spanning the Oldman River Valley in Lethbridge, Alberta

The spectacular High Level Bridge spanning the Oldman River Valley in Lethbridge, Alberta

Lethbridge is my favourite mid-sized Alberta city, with a burgeoning population that’s topped 90,000. Above all, it boasts the spectacular Oldman River Valley, incised by weather-shaped coulees and populated by giant cottonwood poplars on the river flats. If you’re travelling between northern Montana and Calgary/Banff, it’s well worth spending a couple of hours exploring the valley’s half dozen parks, linked by walking/cycling trails.

The valley is also home to two stunning landmarks: the Arthur Erickson-designed University of Lethbridge, built right into some coulees, and the old, long High Level railway bridge. Finally, there’s a considerable Mormon and Japanese influence, so you know things are generally tidy. Yeah, there’s the steady breeze, but not so bad as Crowsnest Pass to the west.

The Lethbridge restaurant scene is now catching up to all this natural splendour. Most mid-sized Alberta cities tend to be culinary wastelands, dominated by chain restaurants in new malls and tried-and-true steak and pizza joints. Not so LA north (Lethbridge, Alberta), where a growing number of independent places are devoted to excellence, local products and generally supporting their community.

These super-sweet tomatoes from Broxburn Vegetables are just the tip of the iceberg for locally produced foods around Lethbridge

These super-sweet tomatoes from Broxburn Vegetables are just the tip of the iceberg for locally produced foods finding their way onto Lethbridge menus

When I spend more than an hour in a coffee shop, it’s invariably because I’m glued to my iPad and its attendant email and Internet tentacles. But at *Cupper’s Coffee & Tea, I don’t even sit down and barely have time to sip one of the best coffees I’ve had in a long, long time—a formidably strong Costa Rican, carefully poured through a Chemex dripper by David. That’s because I’m locked in an intense conversation with owner Al Anctil about all things coffee. Suffice to say, he’s passionate about his craft.

David making a high-test Chemex pot of Costa Rican in Cupper's Coffee & Tea

David making a high-test Chemex pot of Costa Rican in Cupper’s Coffee & Tea

A former sculptor, Al—along with a thermodynamic PhD buddy and hot-rod building brother—built a complex roaster that allows the custom roasting of some 34 types of the world’s finest beans, none of which sit for more than three days. Cupper’s has only one, coffee-shaped table, with two chairs, so its espresso-based or drip coffees are mostly to go, though it does supply many local restaurants and cafes, including Anctil’s former business, Penny Coffee House. But it does have the most impressive collection of coffee- and tea-making machinery and paraphernalia I’ve ever seen. And it’s well worth picking up a pound or two of beans and getting on the mailing list. Cupper’s even ships beans to a financial company in Japan. It’s that good.

Cupper's owner Al Anctil and the sophisticated roaster he helped build

Cupper’s owner Al Anctil and the sophisticated roaster he helped build

Cupper’s Coffee & Tea
1502C 3 Avenue South, Lethbridge
Monday to Friday 9 am-5:30 pm, Satuday 9 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday
Cuppers Coffee and Tea on Urbanspoon

I’m not sure what’s better about *Round Street Café, the food or the story. First, the food. Let’s make it simple. Just order the grilled chicken, brie and avocado sandwich on multigrain ($8.50), the silky combination of flavours wonderfully complemented by the seedy bread. Add a soup or salad, if you wish, but make sure you leave room for a thick slice of fruit pie.

A marvellous grilled chicken, brie and avocado sandwich at Round Street Cafe

A marvellous grilled chicken, brie and avocado sandwich at Round Street Cafe

Now the story—this from Cupper’s owner Al Anctil’s perspective, since Round Street owner Bonny Greenshields is not around when I stop for lunch. A retired high school teacher, Bonny wanted to start a café and consulted Al, who spent the first two meetings fruitlessly trying to convince her not to. She ignored his advice and made the restaurant successful enough to be included in Where to Eat in Canada. But the real story is how she’s helped feed and otherwise help the city’s homeless and otherwise needy folks. So, the breakfast and lunch food is fabulous, but it’s Bonny’s contribution to community that’s the real winner.

Round Street Cafe
427 5 Street South, Lethbridge
Weekdays 7 am- 5 pm, Saturday 9 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday
Round Street Cafe on Urbanspoon

Mocha Cabana is another Lethbridge restaurant devoted to fine food and community. It uses lots of locally sourced meat, dairy and vegetables and employs chefs in or graduated from the Lethbridge College Culinary Program. On weekends, they’re free to create three-course dinners, with local musicians playing in the background. But I’m here for breakfast and a delightful Mocha Scrambler. Despite the somewhat leisurely service, the dish arrives from the oven smoking hot, the cheese nicely melted with hollandaise sauce into fluffy eggs, riding atop a nice medley of pan fries, bacon chunks and red onions. It’s a filling, flavourful meal, washed down by a couple of good mugs of Cupper’s coffee.

A smoking hot, fluffy Mocha Scrambler at Mocha Cabana

A smoking hot, fluffy Mocha Scrambler at Mocha Cabana

Mocha Cabana
317 4 Street South, Lethbridge
Monday to Thursday 8 am-9 pm, Friday 8 am-10 pm, Saturday 9 am-10 pm, Sunday 9 am-4 pm
Mocha Cabana Cafe on Urbanspoon