Enticing smells from the night’s à la minute prepared food led us to in the Castle in the Rockies’ elegant Riverview Room.
Over a dozen local restaurants each offered two food samples paired with BC wines, craft beer or, in the case of Park Distillery, local spirits. Many of Banff’s best dining rooms such as the Maple Leaf Grill, The Bison and the Fairmont Banff Springs’ 1888 Chop House were in attendance. Also present at Banff’s Big Taste were worthy but lesser known restaurants like the Banff Gondola’s new Sky Bistro, Whitehorn Bistro at the Lake Louise Ski Area and the Banff Centre’s hidden gem Three Ravens.
With such a selection, the Grand Tasting Hall is an ultimate foodie celebration. It was originally held at the Maple Leaf Grill, but as more restaurants joined it outgrew the venue. This year the event was sold out. It’s no wonder — the opportunity to taste dishes of Banff’s top restaurants under one roof is combined with a donation of ticket sales to the Banff and Canmore Community Foundation. A delicious spread of local cuisine and a charity fundraiser? Irresistible.
The showcase of tastable talent was impressive. Veterans of Banff’s dining scene such as Chuck’s Steakhouse chef Sal and chef Nigel from La Terrazza presented Wagyu beef carpaccio and mini rosellini respectively. The seared scallop we sampled from the Maple Leaf Grill was imbued with flavour from veal jus and carrots that had been sous vide cooked in their own juice for six hours.
Not to be outdone, the beef bacon from Juniper Hotel Bistro was house-cured for two weeks before being smoked on-site for a further two days. The pork pulled from big shanks displayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs’ Waldhaus station were served with sauerkraut, smoked apple chutney and homemade beer mustard.
During the event, Banff locals easily mixed with tourists from other parts of Alberta and beyond. The high tables where small plates of cuisine were conveniently consumed provided the perfect venue for table talk. Comparisons of tasty finds served as a convenient conversation starters.
Lynnette from Edmonton admired the classic simplicity of the bacon and eggs served by Juniper Hotel Bistro. Ambere, also from Edmonton, praised the Bison Restaurant’s fall-off-the bone tender bison short ribs. They were “honest, not over-flavoured and benefited from the contrast of the sautéed and crispy onion topping,” she reported.
We added to the discourse with our recommendation of The Balkan’s arni kleftiko braised lamb that shared a phyllo shell with roasted vegetables and feta. The serving was large, so it took the whole conversation to finish eating.
Attendees of Banff’s Big Taste left with titillated taste buds, and new found knowledge of Banff’s local dining scene to be used when making dining out choices in the future.