I love driving to the mountains. Especially when the temperatures finally reach the twenties and everything starts to turn green again, and particularly when I’m heading there for the kick-off party for Canmore Uncorked – truly one of the best food festivals I’ve ever been to. We most often pass through Canmore en route to Banff or the Mt Engadine Lodge, often stopping for coffee and pastries at Le Fournil, but rarely is Canmore the destination. I was invited to come judge the kick-off party for Canmore Uncorked Food & Drink Festival yesterday, and spent the night so I could poke around town a bit more. Truly, Canmore Uncorked is one of the best food festivals I’ve been to – a celebration that includes over 30 locally owned restaurants and some pretty fab unique dining experiences.
The opening bash had four teams of chefs, led by Neil McCue of Whitehall, Bill Alexander of Grey Eagle Resort, Anthony Rabot of Market Bistro and Trevor Whitehead of Hogshead (who was also the 2016 Uncorked Chef of the Festival) compete with dishes inspired by French, British, Canadian and indigenous cuisine, all with wine and cocktail pairings. The dishes were exceptional, and Bill’s indigenous team from Grey Eagle took home the trophy with applewood smoked elk rack and beetroot rhubarb compote, cheese and potato stuffed fry bread and pickled carrot ribbons with carrot top pesto.
I love food festivals that encourage eaters to try new places with multi-course set menus at eateries around town (I want the full experience, not just sample-sized bites), and over the next 11 days of Canmore Uncorked (it runs May 3-14), over 30 restaurants will offer three course menus for $22, $33 and $44 – W and I popped into the pub at the Georgetown Inn (again, a place we had only ever driven past – more on that later) for fish and chips, with a starter and sticky toffee pudding for dessert, for $22. There are also various deals and experiences to be had around town – some are free, others are $5 or $10.
One of the most popular events is the Bistro Tour – it runs Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and Juno-nominated Quartetto Gelato leads you on a musical and culinary tour of the town – the performers walk and eat with the guests, sitting down for a course and beverage pairing at four different venues. At the end of each course the band will play a 20-minute set, influenced by the food and the ambiance of the venue. You can see the whole menu here. Progressive dinner tours run Sunday the 7th to Thursday the 11th – you can take a guided eating tour of four different restaurants by bus, bike (hosted by local Olympians!) or foot – I love the social aspect of this kind of tour. You always meet the best people!
They even self-published a cookbook full of recipes from participating chefs! I always need new (local!) cookbooks for my shelf.
Also! One of my favourite people has a chocolate store in Canmore now – Jacek Chocolate Couture from Edmonton has a little chocolate boutique at the back of Stonewaters, right on Main St. You can pick up their galaxy chocolate collection for $10 as one of the festival experiences.
Also: if you’ve never pulled off the highway at Three Sisters (we haven’t, but finally did this time), there’s a charming little hidden community with the most awesome little wine store and Market Bistro, where they sell coffee, bistro-style food, homemade preserves, and have some of the best by the glass wine prices in the Bow Valley. For Canmore Uncorked, they have an amazing looking 3 course dinner menu for $22, and a lunch special every day, and the best looking patio that I wish I could find myself back on this weekend – today it’s blue skies and 20 degrees.
And can we talk about this bed and bathtub for a minute?
You can use the code UNCORKED17 to access special deals at hotels around town. We’ve driven past the Georgetown Inn dozens of times (it’s right next door to Le Fournil – bonus!) but have never stayed nor ventured inside. Turns out it’s the sort of place I started scheming ways to get back to before we even left. I mean, LOOK AT THIS TUB.
It’s exactly the sort of place I imagine escaping to for a night or weekend of lounging in a bed you actually do climb into – and the Miner’s Lamp Pub is the kind we would have thought we hit the jackpot with in London, serving up fish and chips and ploughmans’ platters, with walls and the ceiling decked out with antique skis, climbing gear and other outdoorsy stuff, and old black and white photos on the walls of ice climbing pioneers from the seventies.
On the drive home I actually started scheming weekend escapes that involve pints and fried food with friends in the pub, walking up the stairs to have an hours-long bath with a book and sleep in, then coming down in the morning for stacks of pancakes. Seriously – who needs a spa?
(Yes, W came along for this adventure. He was in chocolate chip pancake heaven.)
And you can’t beat the view from our room.
So if you’re pondering getting out of town for a few hours or a few days, Canmore Uncorked is a good excuse to go for a drive, get outside, get to know more Alberta food people, and eat some delicious things. If you do, tell me about it!
Huge thanks to Travel Alberta for helping me spend more time in more interesting places, spread the word about great local people, restaurants and events, and keep the lights on around here.