Discover the true taste of Alberta
Renowned globally, Alberta beef has always had a seat at the big table in the culinary world. Known for producing some of the best meat, Alberta, Canada has always been up to the task of providing chefs around the world with sustainable top-quality beef. But there is more to this little engine that could. Through the fields that run through the province to the abundant forests and lakes of the Canadian Rockies – Alberta food products and ingredients are hitting the spot in terms of quality and sourcing in an industry looking for fresh new ideas.
We sat down with Karen Anderson – the owner of Alberta Food Tours Inc. and award-winning cookbook author, who shared her insight on Alberta’s true taste and homegrown ingredients we should know about.
Top reasons why Alberta is a foodie’s paradise
Globally Recognized Ingredients are Produced Here
Just as you would go to Italy to try each area’s pasta or to France for a different cheese for every day of the year, Alberta has some foods that originate here or just seem to taste better in Banff National Park.
Here are the top 10 products produce by the province:
Let’s start with the most obvious – Beef. Did you know that Alberta has more cattle than people living in the province? They thrive on our lush grasslands and our chefs cook it to perfection and I would say that’s especially true at 1888 Chop House. My recommendation is always the Tomahawk Steak which is perfection on a plate.
Bison have been native to Alberta, Canada for about 120,000 years. They’ve developed with the land and in turn, are a quintessential taste of this place. Thanks to the preservation efforts of the province the bison breed live on. Try the Vermillion Room’s, Bison Bourguignon.
#3 Saskatoon Berries
The indigenous people of Alberta ate these tiny blue berries fresh, drank them as teas and dried them with bison as their winter food, pemmican. These wild berries are the perfect complement to wild meats.
Travelling in Alberta you are more than likely to spot a field of bright yellow – these are canola fields. The flowers that you see yield a wonderful heart-healthy oil and has become a huge industry for the province. Using cold-pressed organic canola oil is a wonderful addition to any salad dressing and the chefs at the castle use it to flavour their potatoes!
Alberta is the fifth largest honey-producing region in the world with almost 40 million pounds harvested annually. Guests can try Alberta honey with their Afternoon Tea in the Rundle Bar – how sweet is that?
#6 Root Vegetables
Alberta’s cool evenings allow root vegetable sugars to concentrate so they taste sweeter. Chefs love them and add them in stews, beet salads, carrot slaws and many other imaginative ways.
#7 Red Fife Wheat
This was the first wheat to grow well in Alberta. It sustained the pioneers, and we continue to enjoy it in toothsome loaves of sourdough bread. Fun fact – the sandwiches at STOCK Food & Drink use Alberta’s abundance of grains in all of their sandwich breads, which are made in-house.
Alberta produces most of the world’s mustard seeds and until recently shipped these seeds to France to be made into Dijon. Now, Alberta food entrepreneurs are producing jars of this kitchen staple here at the Castle.
Peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils (pulses) do very well in some regions of the province. They not only provide excellent nutrition for people but for our rich black soil as well.
#10 Spirits, Craft Beer, Mead & Fruit Wine
Alberta’s micro-distilleries, breweries, meaderies and fruit wineries are being recognized across the globe for their excellence. When guests enjoy a beverage at the Rundle Bar, they might ask for local spirits and brews.
Culinary Talent Is Unparalleled
Alberta and its key areas like Calgary, Edmonton, Banff National Park and the rest of the Canadian Rockies are quickly becoming foodie destinations. The depth of the culinary programs truly has no end. With that in mind, here are some of the best (besides the Castle of course) that Alberta, Canada has to offer:
- Chef Brad Lazarenko of Culina in Edmonton has built his career on a commitment to using local. In St. Paul, Chef Debbie Poulin’s Twisted Fork has a chalkboard listing the food artisans her restaurant supports. SC Restaurant at River Cree Resort in Enoch serves Chef Shane Chartrand’s contemporary indigenous food
- Deer Lodge and Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Lake Louise and Banff respectively are always top of mind as the owners, Pat & Connie O’Connor together with Executive Chef Allistair Barnes, were pioneers in putting bison and elk on Alberta menus
- In Lacombe, Chef Riley Kane of Cilantro and Chive is infusing his menu with local. Chef Tim Wood at Eco Cafe in Pigeon Lake is another
- River Cafe and Deane House in Calgary are devoted to their local suppliers. At Rouge Restaurant, Chef Paul Rogalski offers guests something from their garden, fresh, preserved, on every plate
- In Lethbridge, Mocha Cabana Chefs Angel Harper and Jaclyn Geddes offer a menu that’s fiercely loyal to their suppliers and they also apply this philosophy in supporting local artists and musicians too
Locally Sourced Ingredients With Authentic Views
One of Fairmont Banff Springs’ greatest adaptations to COVID is the way you can now order a picnic to enjoy in your room or on an alfresco hike. You can even hire a professional guide to take you to a truly spectacular place to enjoy it. And if you are travelling further afield in Alberta, here are some of my absolute favourites:
- Canmore – Valbella Gourmet Meats – this 40-year-old family-owned business offers cheeses, breads, charcuterie and meats cured in the fresh mountain air
- Calgary – The Calgary Farmers’ Market – open Thursday through Sunday, it has a variety of fresh local produce and meat available
- Edmonton – City Market Downtown or Old Strathcona Market – on Saturdays, these are wonderful places to stock up on tasty provisions
- Three Hills – Market Basket – year-round access to local
- Lethbridge – Exhibition Park Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, May to October
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