Category Archives: Bakeries

It’s Well Worth the Drive to Mile One in Pemberton, B.C.

Whistler BC

Mile One Eating House co-owner and chef Randy Jones runs a professional kitchen in Pemberton, B.C.

I’m sure there are some fine, inexpensive places to eat in Whistler, B.C. Indeed, I often head to purebread, which produces perhaps the best bread and baked goodies on the west coast. Mind you, I always stop at their little Function Junction location, a little ways south of the madness that is central Whistler.

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purebred’s fabulous hazelnut fig bread

Whistler is certainly not organized for the road tripper looking for a quick bite or beverage. Between the tourist hordes, all the side streets off the highway, the confusion about where to park and the baffling naming of pedestrian retail spaces—Village Square, Village Stroll, Village Lane, Village Green, Village Idiot—I usually just give up and get the hell out.

Instead, I often head 30 km north on Highway 99 to Pemberton, where I can easily locate, and find nearby parking at, my favourite restaurant in the region, Mile One Eating House.

Yes, there’s a growing lineup on a weekday night in late September (Tip: get there early). But it’s well worth the short wait at this family-run, chef-driven spot that produces fabulous, locally sourced burgers (they recently even bought their own, historic cattle ranch), upscale poutine and the best, gourmet mac ‘n cheese I’ve ever tasted.

I normally go for the divine Southern Comfort mac ‘n cheese—B.C. chicken breast, smoked bacon and brocolini in a creamy aged cheddar/mozza sauce. But there’s a Wednesday night special: a burger and craft beer for about $12. How can I resist?

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Best mac ‘n cheese I’ve ever eaten

My Mile One burger features a five-ounce Cache Creek natural beef patty, smothered in smoked bacon, aged white cheddar and beer-braised caramelized onions, all stuffed inside a house-baked buttermilk bun. It’s so thick I have to cut it in half to funnel it into my gaping mouth. Still, it’s a messy, two-napkin job, washed down with a fine bottle of Russell Brewing’s Punch Bowl IPA.

Whistler BC

The delicious, jaw-stretching Mile One burger

Mile One’s got everything I’m looking for: high standards, excellent ingredients and hard-working cooks, in an open kitchen. And despite the crowd, there’s enough of a personal touch to keep things casual and friendly.

Whistler BC

Lots of regional craft beer available

Right across the street, with parking right in front, is another road tripper’s delight: Mount Currie Coffee. Yes, they also have a Whistler location. But when it might take me 10 minutes just to find it, is there any comparison?

Mile One Eating House
7330 Arbutus Street, Pemberton, B.C.
Wednesday to Sunday 11 am-9 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday
604-384-3842

Mount Currie Coffee
7331 Arbutus Street, Pemberton
Monday to Saturday 6:30 am-6 pm, Sunday 7 am-6 pm
604-894-3388

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Cinnamon bun capital of the universe in northern B.C.

Tetsa River Lodge (2)

The cinnamon buns at Tetsa River Lodge, in northern B.C., attract hundreds of hungry mouths a day

I’ve long believed  every restaurant should have at least one signature dish, something that stands out in a, hopefully, short menu. So much the better if that item is enticing enough to lure people off the road.

Tetsa River Lodge, in the far northeastern reaches of British Columbia, has certainly figured this out. It does have a breakfast and lunch menu that includes scratch-made soups and breads.

But what makes travellers slam on the brakes at Mile 375 on the Alaska Highway, west of Fort Nelson, is its cinnamon buns. During the short summer tourist season, it sells 200 to 300 of these sticky delights a day, enough to qualify for legendary status in this part of the world.

Tetsa River Lodge (1)

Tetsa River Lodge is certainly an oasis along the Alaska Highway

Now, for that kind of success, the product has to be good. At Tetsa Lodge, it’s a sufficiently large, dense, sweet bun to appease the hunger pangs on a long stretch of the Alaska Highway with no other food options. And at $5 a pop, it’s an acceptable price point in these northern wilds.

But what really helps is that age-old marketing strategy: hand-made signs every kilometre or so before you reach the lodge. Forget “the world’s best.” These are trumpeted as the “cinnamon bun centre of the galactic cluster.”

That must be why aliens these days are looking a little pudgy.

Tetsa River Lodge

If you don’t like the northern gas prices, you can always stay home

Tetsa River Lodge
Mile 375, Alaska Highway, 118 km west of Fort Nelson

Formidable French Bakery in Central Washington State

French toast and strong coffee hits the spot at Anjou Bakery near Cashmere, Washington

French toast and strong coffee hits the spot at Anjou Bakery near Cashmere, Washington

An artisan bakery near the speck-on-a-map town of Cashmere in central Washington has my GPS so befuddled it sends me out to an apple orchard. Finally, I seek directions from a local, who directs me back to Highway 97/2, just west of Wenatchee, where I soon spy a big road sign for Anjou Bakery (which aptly is backed by a pear orchard). So much for high technology.

Inside the lovely cafe is a bakery, which for some two decades has been producing loaves of hearth-fired bread. But that’s just the opening act for an irresistible lineup of baked goodies one might expect in a French patisserie.

There are flaky almandines, airy meringues, mini cherry and marionberry pies. I go for a crispy slice of fruit-filled French “toast” to accompany a good, strong coffee. Formidable!

Why go for a slice of formidable pie when you have the whole thing?

Why go for a slice of formidable pie when you have the whole thing?

Other customers don’t seem encumbered by my directional challenges, as there’s a steady stream of travellers stopping for their morning treats. One simply says to the server: “Give me six of your pastries. You choose.”

Anjou Bakery
3898 Old Monitor Highway, Cashmere, Washington
Thursday to Sunday 8 am-5 pm. Closed Monday to Wednesday
509-782-4360

Restaurant Renaissance in Lacombe, Alberta

This classic flat-iron building is the showpiece of Lacombe's lovingly restored historic downtown

This classic flat-iron building is the showpiece of Lacombe’s lovingly restored historic downtown

Lacombe has long been my favourite Alberta town (it’s officially now a city, but with only 12,000 residents, it still has that small-town feel). What I particularly like is the preservation and restoration of many downtown brick buildings and stately Edwardian houses that line its wide, shady streets. You can read all about it in my Day Trips From Calgary book (new edition scheduled for 2017).

Now, there’s another reason for pulling off the frenetic Highway 2, halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. In the past couple of years, Lacombe has seriously stepped up its culinary scene, perhaps even surpassing the dining wilderness of the nearby, much larger Red Deer.

Want to know what the inside of those historic Lacombe houses looks like? Just step into Morrison House Café, where two rooms of a 1919 colonial-revival residence have been converted into an elegant space offering good soups and sandwiches on house-baked breads and croissants. Save room for some delectable oatmeal cake or bread pudding.

Morrison House Cafe is located in a stately, historic downtown Lacombe house

Morrison House Cafe is located in a stately, historic downtown Lacombe house

Speaking of elegant, Sweet Capone’s is a wee downtown shop specializing in Italian pastries such as cannoli, pesche dolci (peach cookies) and Florentines. Sound a bit fancy for a town built on farming? Would you believe there are lineups for these confections, which often sell out by early afternoon?

Sweet Capone's is on historic, brick row in downtown Lacombe

Sweet Capone’s is on historic, brick row in downtown Lacombe

This is what people line up for: cream-filled Italian cannolis

This is what people line up for: cream-filled Italian cannolis

Queues are also de rigueur for the big, oven-roasted turkey and beef sandwiches at Eastside Eatery, in a Lacombe industrial park. I wrote about this fast, affordable, fabulous place in last week’s post.

The sandwiches are big, fast and tasty at Eastside Eatery

The sandwiches are big, fast and tasty at Eastside Eatery

Cilantro and Chive is a recent transplant, moving to downtown Lacombe after its lease expired in Ponoka, to the near north. It features innovative, chef-driven takes on standards, witness the braised duck wings, pulled-pork mac ‘n cheese, bison burgers and smoked trout and kale spaghettini.

Lovely soup and sandwich at Cilantro and Chive

Lovely soup and sandwich at Cilantro and Chive

Here’s the clincher. Lacombe now boasts its own craft brewery, Blindman Brewing, cooking up things like cask-conditioned sour beers and Belgian-style saisons.

I wonder how much those Edwardian houses are selling for?

Morrison House Cafe
5331 51 Avenue, Lacombe, Alberta
Tuesday to Saturday 11 am-3:30 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
403-789-1234

Sweet Capone’s
5010 50 Avenue
Tuesday to Saturday 10 am-4 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
403-789-7778

Eastside Eatery
3, 4013 53 Avenue, Lacombe, Alberta
Weekdays 8 am-3 pm. Closed weekends
403-782-7435

Cilantro and Chive
5021 50 Street
Monday to Wednesday 11 am-9 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am-11 pm. Closed Sunday
403-782-2882

Blindman Brewing
Bay F, 3413 53 Avenue
Opens at 2 pm Tuesday to Friday and at noon Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday
403-786-2337

A Perfect Way to Fill Your Pie Hole

The sour cherry hand pie at Calgary's Pie Hole is a devastating combination of buttery pastry and tangy berries

The sour cherry hand pie at Calgary’s Pie Hole is a devastating combination of buttery pastry and tangy berries

Contemplating some pie? You’re no doubt fixated on the contents. Will it be apple or key lime? Chicken or beef?

Sure, the crust is important. But critical?

Well, it certainly is when you bite into the splendid offerings at Calgary’s charming new Pie Hole. Virtually everything on the short menu is cocooned inside the daily, made-from-scratch pastry. There’s fruit pies, meat pies, quiches and perfect, snack-sized hand pies of sweet and savoury varieties.

Take your time getting to the inside of  these delicacies, because the pastry is worth savouring like a fine wine. There’s a lot to consider here: the slight crunch, the flakiness, the butter. Ah, the butter. Pie Hole goes through some 30 pounds a day of this elixir, and it makes all the difference in the richness of the pies.

Golden brown pastry shells awaiting their contents. Though I think you could eat these beauties on their own.

Golden brown pastry shells awaiting their contents. Though I think you could eat these beauties on their own.

This is not to say the innards don’t matter. The chicken pot pie ($8), for instance, contains tender chunks of chicken, gravy and all the requisite vegetables. A winter quiche might feature tomato, fresh herbs and chevre.

And then there’s the sour cherry hand pie ($5), a devastating combination of tart Saskatchewan berries and that amazing pastry. You can take it, or anything else, home with you. But I’ll bet it’s gone by the time you reach the car, crumbs trailing you across the parking lot.

Pie Hole partner Torin Shuster after a 12-hour shift of pie making. Now that's dedication

Pie Hole partner Torin Shuster after a 12-hour shift of pie making. Now that’s dedication

The Pie Hole
8 Spruce Centre SW, Calgary
Wednesday to Sunday 9 am-6 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday
403-452-3960

Calgary Baker’s Sandwiches Are No Croque

The brioche bread makes this scintillating croque monsieur at Calgary's Manuel Latruwe bakery

The brioche bread makes this scintillating croque monsieur at Calgary’s Manuel Latruwe bakery

The conventional image of a croque monsieur is a béchamel-soaked ham sandwich, baked till the blanketing cheese (say a Gruyere) bubbles over.

But it took a trip to Calgary Belgian baker Manuel Latruwe for me to realize the essence of this caloric confection is the bread. Which in this case is a wonderfully soft, house-made brioche, offsetting the sandwich’s crunch (croque) and adding a layer of richness to this French standard. Continue reading