Greetings lovely readers! I have just returned from an 18 day trip exploring Canada. It was pretty epic, starting in Alberta (Calgary & Banff), moving to BC (Vancouver & the Okanagan) and finishing in Nova Scotia (Halifax & Cape Breton mainly).

Here is a little postcard – enjoy! Back soon with recipes, stories and details.

I had less than a day in Calgary but I did it justice in the time visiting Pigeonhole, The Nash, Corbeaux Bakehouse, the Yellow Door Bistro and Charcut. I also managed a little spice shopping in the wonder that is the Silk Road Spice Shop. The food scene in Calgary is thriving and has been growing enthusiastically for the last 5 years. As is common now there was lots of local sourcing, cocktails are popular and well executed. Calgary is inland and is famous for beef, but there are interesting takes on fish too. Did you know that there are cowboys in Calgary? Yeah, and one of the worlds largest rodeos! Boutique bitters are a thing, and there are lots of interesting Canadian ones, which make for very interesting drinks. It is definitely somewhere I would like to return to, both to explore the food scene locally but also to explore the Rockies and areas like Jasper, further.

I then headed to Banff to board the Rocky Mountaineer. I am a little obsessed with trains and I love slow travel. This trip has been on my bucket list for a while, from Banff in the Rockies through to Vancouver over 2 days. A luxury experience with great food, how glorious is the carriage with the transparent ceiling? So immersive. It is also pretty hard to beat and old school dining car. The food and wine offering was very well executed, featuring local ingredients cooked well, and local wines and beers. The service was exceptional, and I especially loved standing in the vestibule, an exterior portion of every car where you could soak it all in.

I had a brief stop in Vancouver. I stayed in the Fairmount downtown, and had enough time for a couple of brunches (L’Abbatoir and Café Medina),  dinner (Royal Dinette) and drinks (Salt Tasting Room – all matched with charcuterie & cheese) and an afternoon tea (at the Fairmount where I stayed). Vancouver is a fun spot with lots going on. I definitely need to return and spend more time there.

From Vancouver to the Okanagan, one of Canada’s established wine regions. It surprises many to hear that Canada has a desert, there is also an enormous lake here, 131 licensed wineries, and many more grape growers. I visited the NK’MIP Desert Cultural Centre to learn about the Osoyoos Indian Band, one of the Okanagan First Nations. They also own a winery, NK’MIP Cellars, and produce terrific wines, my favourites their pinot noir and ice wine. We enjoyed them over a hyper local lunch cooked by Okanagan chef Chris Van Hooydonk at Backyard Farm. Justin Hall, a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band and assistant winemaker at NK’MIP Cellars also lunched with us and matched wines to the meal. It was a wonderful experience. I tried lots of wines while in the Okanagan, as with much Canadian wine, little is exported so you just have to dig deep and try as many as you can there. Right?

Following the Okanagan, I journeyed back to Nova Scotia. Canada is enormous, there is a 4 hour time difference between the two coasts and the East and West coasts contrast in many ways. I love Nova Scotia, I have visited twice before to see a friend but had never explored the region properly. This time I got to visit Cape Breton, a large island to the north of Nova Scotia which had lots of Scottish, French and Irish settlers, and the Celtic music and language traditions are very much alive there. I also explore Halifax returning to my favourite Obladee (who are now doing terrific lunches) and Field Guide

With thanks to Destination Canada and also to the Rocky Mountaineer who sponsored my trip.

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Niamh

Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.
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