Monday, September 13, 2010

rags to riches

Sometimes I marvel at the vicissitudes of life. When I last wrote, my whole family was together, it was summertime, and I was simply blissful having spent an afternoon picking raspberries on a farm just outside of Edmonton. Today I'm sipping Remy Martin XO, looking out over Lake Edith and swooning adoringly into my love’s eyes, not a sister or great aunt in sight. I’ve been dreaming of Italian adventures and doing everything but praying that I get into grad school. Maybe I should consider praying… I suppose it couldn’t hurt.

Normally I spend Labour Day weekend watching the Eskimos play in Calgary and taking in pier sections from a near-freezing lake. You'd be surprised how fetching hip-waders can actually be... This year I decided to get out of town completely.

We spent last night at the Chateau Lake Louise, driving out after I finished work. It was a late start by the time we actually got on the highway and it rained intermittently the whole way up. A rather impressive flourish of rain came down at the end. We drove through the dark woods on either side and were awestruck as the illuminated windows of the castle came into view. We had planned to spend hours whiling away in the Walliser Stube fondue lounge, but by the time we got in all we wanted was room service and a big comfy bed. Unfortunately we were so overwhelmed by the splendour upon our arrival that I forgot my camera in the car that night.

But in case you were wondering, I had a grilled salmon pita with a side salad and Joey had a rather extraordinary grilled vegetable wrap with roasted pepper spread and perfectly cooked homemade french fries. Together we polished off a lovely bottle of Pinot Noir from Oregon made by Wine by Joe, 2008. The salmon was cooked perfectly and came apart with my fork in delicate but firm flakes. We didn’t have dessert, but at that hour it’s probably a good thing. It was only the one night that we stayed at the Chateau, but it was altogether memorable.

Yesterday we slept in a little and came down for lunch in the lounge, gazing out at Lake Louise from the wide, Palladian windows that line the main floor fa├žade. Though my onion soup was generally forgettable, the wild boar bacon and chanterelle mushroom quiche was rich enough to share, leaving Joey's roasted vegetable sandwich as a snack for the road, which we packaged up and took with us. He also had a soup of the day, which was a creamy potato and parsnip. I like the idea of this soup better than we liked the actual thing in front of us, so now it’s going into my bank of things to experiment.

The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper is a lot longer than I remember. Not realizing the distance, we had to make good time once we got moving. Before we got back onto the highway we stopped briefly in the village for a coffee and a snack. Do yourself a favour and get an almond macaroon or a pizza bagel from Laggan’s Mountain Bakery. I got both and was not the least bit sorry.

(Right: the only bite of the legendary macaroon I was able to capture before devouring the whole thing)

Arriving late again in Jasper we checked in, unpacked in the room, and went straight for the room service menu. I decided to go big. I figure, when will I ever again be able to go all out in a place like this? Heck, I can only afford such an extravagant holiday because I work for the company. Next time I visit these places, I’ll likely be sleeping in a tent. So I ordered the 7 oz. filet mignon with buttered mashed potatoes. Joey got the spinach and ricotta cannelloni with a tomato sauce, which came with the additional cream for the sauce on the side. A very thoughtful touch, we both thought, being able to add as much or as little cream as he liked. My steak was cooked to perfection. It can’t be easy to prepare a steak for transport to a little cabin away from the central kitchen and ensure that it still arrives cooked rare, pink in the middle. The meat was tender and seasoned simply with salt and pepper, slightly charred on the outside adding a caramel flavour to each juicy bite.
Even a small cut like the filet I found a bit too much for me, but I never feel bad leaving things on my plate. I just don’t think it’s healthy to insist on cleaning one’s plate, nor was it ever insisted by my mother that I do so. I hate it when people remark at how much or little I eat, that’s my own damn business.
Oh yes, and we paired the late supper with a Chilean Syrah, very good value for dollar on this bottle – spicy, bold, and a little supple in the mouthfeel, a great food pairing wine.
(Right: My perfect room-service steak)

Anyway, we had thought about getting the big to-do brunch delivered to the room this morning, but decided to not be lazy bums and got our asses into comfy seats at the window’s of the lounge, just off the main lodge’s lobby. Looking out over yet another beautiful lake, we relished at the arrival of a big french press full of fresh coffee. We were hungry, but I knew I couldn’t eat anything too rich after last night, so we decided to split the smoked salmon Eggs Benedict. It was taking a long time, but our server brought us fresh orange juice and a fresh press of coffee, apologising for the delay. We weren’t really bothered, having found ourselves in such a paradise. When the food finally came, I was amazed by what lay in front of me. The egg was perfectly poached. Breaking it open let loose a flow of rich creamy yolk, and the hollandaise was lemony and quite light. The roasted fingerling potatoes were well cooked too – fluffy inside, but slightly crispy on the outside, the feel of the skins breaking between my teeth as I sunk them in. On the side was half a roasted roma tomato. A perfect meal to split, especially washed down with freshly squeezed orange juice and more hot coffee.
(Right: A half-order of the smoked salmon Benny)

Currently I’m sitting in front of that same window overlooking the lake, having gone for a swim and cleaned myself up a bit. Alert, but relaxing next to a warm snifter of Remy Martin XO, I don’t think I can honestly say that I’ve ever been more content. Tra la… I wonder what the soup of the day is…(Centre: view from my window in the Emerald Lounge at the Jasper Park Lodge)


  1. yumm i freaking love eggs benedict! but i always wait in frear for it to arrive because if the yolks are hard then it has to go back.

  2. oh my goodness those pictures are beautiful. I can't even believe it