Thursday, November 20, 2008

Banff, Day 2: Lake Louise and The Bison Mountain Bistro

Buildings in Banff must follow strict regulations regarding structures which is why every house and store look like a Swiss chalet. In addition, because the town of Banff is within the confines of a National Park, there are strict regulations about who live there. You must prove that you are employed to rent or purchase a house/condo in Banff. This means that rich Calgarians who want to build a cottage must do this in Canmore, which is outside of the Banff National Park.

View of the mountains from the condo.

On our second day in Banff, D, C and I wanted to go visit the Columbia Icefield. However, the road conditions were not the greatest after a snowfall. We were also informed that it would be hard to differentiate the glacier from the snow at this time of year. The 2-1/2 drive there did not seem worthwhile.

Instead, we decided to go to one of the most renown spots in Banff National Park: Lake Louise. Lake Louise is a glacial lake about an hour drive from Banff. D drove through Highway 1A which is the more scenic route. While the first part of our drive was very sunny it became overcast as we drove farther. The sights of perfectly lined trees and soaring mountains were still breathtaking. At a point, we drove by a prescribed burn area – trees are purposefully burned to help keep forests healthy.

On Highway 1A to Lake Louise.

We finally arrived in Banff to see Lake Louise with its beautiful turquoise water. The colour is due to rock flour, which are fine rock particles. We followed the trail on the side of The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and past the end of the lake, for about an hour. On our way back we saw a group of people who had spotted a mountain goat on the other side of the lake. It was very impressive even though the goat was just a little dot that kept moving around a bit. On our way back, it started snowing harder and the lake changed before our eyes.

C, D and myself posing in front of Lake Louise.

Lake Louise.

The glacial water was a beautiful turquoise at the end of Lake Louise.

C cozying up to a snowman.

The Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel at the opposite side of the lake.

When we finished our hike back, it was 2 pm and we were ready to eat. We decided to check the menu at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. However, the prices were too high for lunch. We decided to hold out for dinner at the Bison Bistro. On our drive back, we stopped by Johnston Canyon, another popular tourist stop. There are the Lower Falls, 0.5 mile out and the Upper Falls, 1.5 mile out. While the hike was very scenic, it was very slippery some of the time. Once we reached the Lower Falls, we decided to go see Upper Falls next, but as we started our ascent, we didn’t think it was worth the treacherous hike up and down, so we turned back!

Hiking towards the Lower Falls. At some spots, we were holding on to those rails for dear life!

Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon.

Our rented PT Cruiser with the mountain backdrop.

The Bison Mountain Bistro
211 Bear Street
Banff, Alberta

Before leaving for Banff, I searched food blogs for Banff restaurant recommendations. I found one review at are you gonna eat that? for The Bison Mountain Bistro. Not only did it sound interesting, but I found out on their website that they served ½ price appetizers (and wine bottles!) between 5 and 6 pm. Perfect for my limited budget! The Bison Bistro prides itself in local and sustainable food.

The list of half price appetizers was quite extensive, including salads and soup. C and D also took advantage of the half prize wine bottles. D and I selected a few of the appetizers while C wanted to try venison since she was in Alberta. The pictures did not come out very well as the restaurant was very dark. I should have used the flash on all of them. Please forgive the poor images - live and learn.

Front of the Bison Mountain Bistro.

There is an open kitchen which made it hard not to want to start eating right away because of all the great food aromas!

We were first served complementary bread and butter, topped with locally produced extra virgin canola oil and salt. D ordered the Caesar Salad that was served with whole romaine hearts. I ordered the House Mixed Greens; I really enjoyed the dried figs and maple walnuts. However, I would have liked the greens to be mixed with the vinaigrette, rather than the artsy zigzag - there just wasn't enough vinaigrette. D also had an apple and parsnip soup that she enjoyed (not picture) while I had the Bison Onion Soup. The onion soup was very good. It was very flavourful and the cheese was extra stringy. It was quite salty, however, and I did need to drink quite a lot of water.

Cesar Salad, with romained hearts, lemon confit, pink peppercorn aioili, fried capers and black olive focaccia crouton, $13 (-50%).

House Mixed Greens, with Black Mission figs, maple walnuts and Saksatoon berry vinaigrette, $12 (-50%).

The Bison Onion Soup, with caramelized onions, bison broth, red wine and garlic crouton, $12 (-50%).

For our mains, D and I shared one of the wood fired pizzas. We picked the one with roasted squash, gouda and goat cheese and paid an extra $4 to add smoked bison. Only at the end when I ate a piece of the very thinly sliced smoked bison did I appreciate its unique taste, like slightly gamey prosciutto. C had the 8 oz. venison plate on top of bacon mashed potatoes. C had never had venison before. Although she did enjoy the dish, she found venison too gamey for her. D and I tried some and thought it was pretty gamey too. Venison is just not for everyone. Lucky for Bambi…! Supposedly the mashed potatoes were excellent though!

Wood fired pizza, with roasted butternut squash, Pasilla peppers, Sylvan Star gouda and goat cheese, $18 + $4 for smoked bison (-50%).

The Venison Main, $42.

Finally, all three of us shared the Lavender Smore, made up of flourless chocolate cake, infused Alberta honey and a graham tuile. The dish tasted very lavender infused. (C and D were amused by my comment that it smelled like clean underwear since I have lavender soap in my drawer…) All three of us enjoyed this dessert, although we thought the lavender overpowered everything. The sweetness mainly came from the honey and was not overly sweet.

Lavender Smore.

All and all a great meal. We were very stuffed from all the food. We didn’t think our hiking was sufficient to make up for this meal! If you can make it Monday through Thursday between 5 and 6 pm, you can get a great deal. Otherwise, there is also a $35 table d’hote. There is a balcony which would be very nice during the summer.

Bison Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

For more posts on Banff:


Martini said...

I enjoy the travelling. I wish I were in the midst of a travel adventure right now. Travelling 1.5 km to work just doesn't cut it.

Miss.Adventure said...

I love travelling too! But there's an inherent problem with traveling. You either have money or time, but not often both!