The menu at Sleeping Buffalo restaurant at Buffalo Mountain Lodge is complemented by a stellar wine list. // © 2015 Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka
Feature image (above): Travelers bring fare from the weekly Banff Farmers Market for a picnic at Two Jack Lake. // © 2015 Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka
“Locally sourced” is a dining trend that has been around for some time, but at Banff National Park in Banff, Alberta, the trend has led to the development of an entirely new type of fare. Canadian Rocky Mountain Cuisine features regionally sourced ingredients grown by local farmers who use sustainable practices. Wild game is another prominent component of the cuisine, as it has always been a staple for indigenous people in the region.
“Here in the Rockies, we celebrate venison, elk, bison, wild boar and rainbow trout, as well as Alberta beef, Alberta lamb and Alberta pork,” said JW Foster, executive chef for The Fairmont Banff Springs. “Canadian Rockies Cuisine showcases the special ingredients that are available in this region. Some of our guests have never tried game meat, and visiting the Rockies gives them an opportunity to try it where it’s authentically local.”
While meat plays a starring role in Canadian Rocky Mountain Cuisine, there are vegetarian options as well, such as locally harvested mushrooms, local cheeses and mountain fiddleheads. And with more than 100 restaurants and eateries within Banff National Park, including some of the top fine-dining establishments in Canada, it’s not hard to find a Rocky Mountain-style meal to suit your palate.
“The growing season is short, and it is difficult to source everything within a 100-mile radius when you’re in the Rockies, but we rely on smaller producers to provide us with ingredients that are unique to this region,” Foster said. “We’re capturing the ruggedness and rustic ambiance of the mountains in the cuisine.”
If that’s the kind of ambiance you’re after, we found the top five places in Banff to find Canadian Rocky Mountain Cuisine.
Buffalo Mountain Lodge, part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts (CRMR) group, is home to this restaurant, which sources most of its game meat from CRMR’s own private ranch. You’ll find buffalo striploin and caribou on the menu, as well as duck breast, quail, salmon and butternut squash ravioli. Be sure to check out the charcuterie board, which features items such as elk salami, smoked buffalo, wild-boar pate and Sylvan Star Gouda cheese.
Farmhouse dinners featuring items from a different local farmer each week are a highlight here, but this is also a great place to try bison. The signature bison short ribs with carrots, turnips, mushrooms and bacon are always delicious, as is the bison burger with curds and warm potato salad. Don’t be afraid to go all out: bison burgers, bison carpaccio, bison ravioli and even bison ramen are available.
Organic, locally raised beef features heavily on the menu at The Fairmont Banff Springs’ newest restaurant, but you’ll also find elk, lamb, chicken, Canadian seafood and vegetarian dishes. This is the place to have steak or chops, which are hand-cut, grilled on wild cherrywood and served with house butter or natural veal jus.
The menu is constantly changing at this fine-dining restaurant at The Banff Centre, but it always showcases artfully prepared regional cuisine. Starters can range from elk tartare to prawn and Mongozo beer-braised pork belly. Main dishes might include Alberta bison striploin, lavender- and coriander-glazed duck breast and mushroom gnocchi. The smoked almond-crusted steelhead trout is a mainstay and a personal favorite.
Banff Farmers Market
If you want to bring home a taste of Canadian Rocky Mountain Cuisine or you have an accommodation with a kitchen, check out the weekly Banff Farmers Market, which features more than 50 vendors. The market runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Wednesday from June 10 to Sept. 23. Pick up farm-fresh veggies and meats, artisanal breads, homemade chutneys, pickled vegetables and other gourmet food items. If you’re so inclined, head to Two Jack Lake — about 20 minutes up the road — for a scenic picnic with your Rocky Mountain Cuisine finds.