Regina wasn’t supposed to be interesting. I wasn’t supposed to be wowed by my hotel and I certainly didn’t expect to have such intriguing dining experiences. That’s the thing about Saskatchewan. You have this idea of it in your head, yet when you visit, all that you thought you knew about Canada’s bread basket is turned upside down. At least it was for me.

What surprised me the most about Regina

The lobby bar at Hotel Saskatchewan is glamorous, yet not pretentious. (© Chris Graham Photo 2016)

I was in Regina recently to do research for my book (coming to a fine bookstore near you in spring 2017), yet months later, I find myself thinking back to its restaurants. The Queen City has some lovely options, and if you happen to find yourself in Region, you’ll want to suss out these scrumptious spots. 

Breakfast of Champions

There’s plenty of protein options at Fresh and Sweet located in the downtown core, but it’s their confectionary style carbs that set this breakfast (and lunch) spot apart. A dizzying array of waffles range from maple glazed bacon to a golden grid topped with sugared almonds, strawberries and goats cheese. Not a waffle fan? Opt for the red velvet pancakes or a grilled cinnamon bun served up with a side of homemade gelato. Portions are large, and you’ll leave pleasantly stuffed, but hey, you won’t need to eat again until dinnertime.

Fresh and sweet Regina

I threw back a lot of banana bread french toast, and it was worth every calorie!

Gourmet Picnics

Located steps away from leafy Wascana Centre, the crown jewel in the city’s park system,  Tangerine is a trendy lunch locale that hits the spot whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, going gluten-free or are a paleo punching carnivore. Admittedly, the space looks pretty dull from the outside, but the inside it’s all bright and modern, with a wall size blackboard menu and light flooding in from two massive windows. The fare changes on a daily basis, but you’ll always be privy to a variety of veggie packed salads, a complete veggie meal, homemade soup, artisanal sandwichs, plus a green and protein combo. Best is they’ll pack up a picnic, so you can enjoy your treats at Wascana Lake.

veg meal

Farro stuffed squash just might turn you into a vegetarian (Credit: Tangerine)

Drinks and Nibbles

Stepping into the elegant lobby lounge at Hotel Saskatchewan is like being transported back to the early 20th century when railway hotels (as this once was) were the place to see and be seen in Canada’s capital cities. Circa 27 exudes old world charm with its crystal chandelier, hand painted wooden beam ceiling and gold trim. You’ll feel very grand sitting in front of the fire with one of their signature cocktails (made with gin, the Saskatchewan Caesar is the most popular), and nibbling on appetizers such as steak tartare. Should you decide to let drinks morph into dinner, you won’t be disappointed with a menu celebrating fresh ingredients, local produce and Saskatchewan ingenuity. I should also reveal their room service burger was one of the top five best burgers I’ve had in my life. And I’m from Alberta!

room service burger

No pre-formed patties here!

Casual Fine Dining

Elevated comfort food is prepared in the open kitchen at Flip, also situated in the downtown core. The short ribs melt in your mouth, and are accompanied by fragrant rosemary potatoes. Another hearty option is the brick roasted chicken on a bed of dirty rice and smothered in a creamy spinach sauce. Mains are filling and flavourful, but you can opt for lighter fare with a selection of their inventive appetizers (buttermilk masala seasoned fried chicken skins, anyone?).

Salmon on couscous

The fare is fresh and inventive at Flip. (Photo credit: Flip Eatery & Drink)


Every city should have a classic dairy bar and in Regina, it’s the Milky Way. This popular takeaway spot offers over 40 different flavours of hard ice cream, six flavours of soft, plus no sugar and lactose-free options. Cyclones are their version of Blizzards, and they claim their chili is famous, though I can’t vouch for this. I can, however, confirm mix and match customized sundaes is the way to go. Warning: this joint closes for the winter season.

ice cream shack

You won’t regret waiting in line. (Photo credit: Milky Way Ice Cream)

On the Outskirts of Town….

Worth the 30-minute drive from the city, Over the Hill Orchards, produces organic fruit you wouldn’t think you’d be able to grown in this harsh prairie climate. Stop by their tea house (open from May long weekend until Thanksgiving) for a delectable array of (gluten-free) desserts or pick up a box of heavenly chocolate covered cherries and a few of their jams. Also, be on the lookout for their products on the menus of the city’s top restaurants and cafes.

children green house

Kids love visiting the orchard and taking a tour. (Photo credit: Tourism Saskatchewan/Greg Huszar Photography )

Local’s Favourites

The Willow on Wascana continues to garner rave reviews for its seasonal and local fare. This is the spot to come for an unpretentious gourmet meal and celebrate something special – like being in Regina! My sister is from Regina, and she recommends Golf’s Steak House. It’s your classic Greek steak house with enticing affordable lunch specials. And if you’re looking for a pint, Bushwacker Brewpub is hands down the place to have it.

willow on wascana

You won’t regret soaking up the views from The Willow on Wascana (Photo Credit: The Willow on Wascana)

Have you recently dined in Regina? What are your favourite eateries here?

Get out of town! 4 amazingly affordable fall trips

I took this pic of the huz when we visited Waterton one November.

Why more people don’t travel in the fall, I’ll never know. Autumn is ideal for trips, but with back to school and all that, folks tend to balk at taking vacations at this time of year. Now is the time to save big on accommodations and enjoy the great outdoors without the crowds. Here are 4 affordable fall getaways close to Calgary you’ll want to consider.

Mountains with no Tourists

Many people think of Waterton Lakes National Park as a summer only destination, but they couldn’t be more wrong. True, after Thanksgiving the tiny town all but shuts down, but that’s when the fun begins. You’ll feel like you have an entire national Park (and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) all to yourself. Only two hotels remain open, Waterton Lakes Lodge and Glacier Suites, where you can get a suite sub $150! Inquire about snowshoes and cross country skis, often offered complimentary or for a nominal charge.

waterton national park winter

You’ll feel like you have an entire National Park all to yourself.

Great Rate at Luxe Property

Banff was overrun with tourists this summer, but things dramatically slow down mid-October. Betcha didn’t know Fairmont Banff Springs offers Alberta residents a special rate of 30% off their best available rate. If you want to celebrate Halloween in a big way, now is the time to see if those rumours are true. Be sure to book in for their exceptional Royal Champagne Afternoon Tea.

castle in the rockies

Snag a great rate and live it up at the Castle in the Rockies

Romantic Country Inn

I almost hate writing about Prairie Creek Inn, as few people know about this delightful B&B. Situated near Rocky Mountain House, head here if you fancy a laid back weekend filled with great food, loads of sleep and perhaps a lil’ somethin’ somethin’ on the side.

Canadian b&B

How’s this for a romantic B&B?

This is the spot to take long walks in the autumn sunshine, before curling up by the fire with a hearty glass of wine. It’s like those romantic New England country inns you see on the pages of glossy magazines. Except this one is way cheaper. And closer.

Wine Tasting and Hipster Hotel

Kelowna is but a short flight away and with its mild weather, you can still play outside. Hotel Zed is a fun new property offering rooms under a $100 bucks a night. They’ve got a mini disco complete with fog machine and strobe lights, and they can whip you around town in a classic Chevy Greenbrier van. Or maybe you want to rock around in a pair of complimentary roller skates?

retro hotel

Retro and rad is what Hotel Zed is all about.

Kelowna sports a sublime patisserie: Sandrine French Pastry & Chocolate and do you remember former Calgary Chef Chris Shafton? Check out his restaurant Krafty Kitchen + Bar. There are five Kelowna wine trails to explore. You can go on your own or book a guided wine tour. Speaking of wine, Mission Hill Family Estate has these cool culinary classes. Take a workshop on: traditional Italian, Best Brunch or Mystic India.

Do you like to get away during shoulder season? Where are your secret haunts? I’ll be going on Calgary’s Global Morning Show tomorrow a.m., and would love to know your recommendations. 

P.S. You also may enjoy reading:


The best spots for shoulder season travel

10 Weird things you need to pack for travel

Secrets of Royal Tea Time and Where to Get it

Feel oh-so royal when sampling Fairmont’s Royal Champagne Afternoon Tea

Nerdy little secret about me: I’m a huge anglophile. If there’s anything I enjoy more than reading about the royal family, it’s tucking into afternoon tea. You can imagine my glee when I found out that in celebration of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s recent visit to Canada, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts launched a Royal Champagne Afternoon Tea series. This is no ordinary tea, folks. This tea service is comprised of the exact recipes used in the palace. You get to experience the same kind of tea service the royal family is served up everyday between 4 and 5 p.m.!

Fairmont banff springs tea

My girl was so excited to tuck into afternoon tea with me at Fairmont Banff Springs last weekend.

Royal Connection

Fairmont has long had a connection with the royal family. In 1990, the Queen stayed in the Royal Suite at Fairmont Palliser, and this summer the hotel hosted Price Edward and Sophie. Prince William, Prince Harry once stayed with their parents at Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa, and the luxurious Outlook Cabin at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge hosted Queen Elizabeth II.

Darren McGrady

Thanks to Chef McGrady, you too can enjoy a royal tea service at select Canadian Fairmont Hotels

For this special tea, Fairmont reached out Chef Darren McGrady to recreate royal family favourites for Fairmont guests. Chef McGrady was personal chef to Queen Elizabeth II, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Princes William and Harry for 15 years. He flew with the Queen when she was on her royal tours. Apparently the Queen has tea every day at 5 p.m., no matter where she is in the world.

Royal Family Faves

With a nod to traditional British and French cuisine, the Royal Champagne Afternoon Tea features some of Her Majesty’s favourites, many of which remain on the afternoon tea menu at Buckingham Palace today. Every tea sandwich and petit four you’ll nibble on has a story behind it, and the menu you receive explains why it’s a royal favourite. Or you can read who loves what here. A little secret I heard that’s not on the menu is that the Queen crumbles scones on carpet for her corgis. Maybe that’s why they alternate each day between plain and raisin – so her dogs can be assured of having a fresh treat!

tea cakes

So many little cakes for you to devour!

The big draw (I thought) was snacking on the Chocolate Birthday Cake, dating back to Queen Victoria’s chef; and is the cake every royal gets on their birthday. The Chocolate Biscuit Cake was so loved by Prince William, he chose it for his Groom’s cake. Another favourite of Wills: Caramel Banana Cake is also on the menu. (Apparently he and Harry are huge banana fans.)

royal tea sandwiches

The sandwiches are filling, but it’s worth sampling each and every one!

The sandwiches are pretty sweet, too! I was partial to the potted shrimp, a treat served up at Balmoral Castle in the fall. Jam Pennies were loved by Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret as young children. Roast beef comes with slices of beet at the Fairmont Palliser – a combo Princess Diana loved, as she was a huge fan of beets for their health benefits.

Tea Time

There are four tea selections to choose from. Organic Earl Grey is an afternoon favourite of the royal family. Darjeeling is what they sip for for breakfast. Lapsang Souchon is a seriously smokey tea, and is a popular warm up after hunting on the estate surrounding Balmoral Castle. My favourite was Rose Pouchong, a tea with a distinct rose character, and a favourite of Princess Diana’s. Apparently she had a cup every afternoon, as she found it so calming.

tea tray

This is what the tea service looks like at Fairmont Palliser.

Where and When

The Royal Champagne Afternoon Tea is only available until the end of November 2016 at Fairmont Palliser (Calgary), Fairmont Banff Springs, Fairmont Empress (Victoria), Fairmont Château Laurier (Ottawa) and Fairmont Royal York (Toronto) with pricing starting at $45 per person. If you have the opportunity to try it at different locations you should. There were slight differences between what I tried in Calgary vs Banff. Both were excellent, but I have to say the Fairmont Palliser won the sandwich round, while Fairmont Banff Springs had an edge on the desserts. 

potted shrimp and toast

What’s cool is each Fairmont puts a different spin on the royal recipes. Case in point, this potted shrimp at Fairmont Banff springs

Elevate your tea experience with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label. Veuve Clicquot continues to enjoy a warrant to supply the Royal household. Note: the $45 for this tea service doesn’t include a glass of champers. This is a typical price for afternoon tea, and the experience was so fab, I went twice in one week! During a “cleanse week,” I should add. So much for willpower. 

royal afternoon tea

Start at the bottom and work your way up the tea tray

Tea Dos and Don’ts

I’ve had a lot of afternoon tea in my time, and I was surprised at some of the tea etiquette I recently learned. So you don’t make the same mistakes I did:


  • Work your way up from the bottom of the tea tray, starting with sandwiches.
  • Pour your milk into the cup before the tea. This was originally done to check for curdled milk (no fridges at Downton Abbey, remember?) and to prevent the glaze on delicate china teacups from cracking.
  • Secure your teacup with your index finger and thumb. Pinkies out is optional.
  • Use your fingers to break the scone, not a knife.
  • Lash the scone with clotted cream first, then dollop with jam. I find this harder to do, but apparently it allows the jam flavours to shine.


  • Clink your spoon against the tea cup whilst stirring.
  • Remove your spoon before taking a sip of tea.
  • Hold the body of the cup with the palm of the hand, this is considered rude.

Fun Tea Facts

  • Afternoon tea was invented in the 1800’s by Anna, the seventh Duchess Bedford, and is typically served between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
  • A cup of black tea has half the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.
  • Tea bags were invented in 1908 in the United States by Thomas Sullivan.
  • Back in the 80s, Prince Charles wigged out when President Regan’s butler served him tea with the tea bag still in the cup. The Prince had no idea what to do with the tea bag.
  • The Fairmont Empress serves afternoon tea to 100,000 guests each year. This hotel serves up half a million cups of tea annually!

Are you a fan of afternoon tea? Where’s the best spot you’ve tried it? 

You may also enjoy reading

How to Travel Like a Royal for Less

10 Secrets to Know Before Staying at Fairmont Banff Springs

Best of Bridge: The Family Slow Cooker + Giveaway

It’s finally here!

Did every family in Canada grow up with a Best of Bridge cookbook perched in their kitchen? I know mine did. When I moved to Japan, the only cookbook that made it into my suitcase was a Best of Bridge one. Lot of good that did me (good luck finding cream cheese or cream of mushroom soup in mid-90s Japan). Still, I remained loyal. After all these years, I know I’m not the only one who’s thrilled they’ve rebooted. The Family Slow Cooker is out on shelves and surprisingly, I adore it.

Well, it’s not so surprising, as I’m loyal and an Albertan, plus I know I can trust their recipes. Thing is, I’m not the slow cooker type. Kind of like I’m not the SUV type, except I have one. Or that I’m not a pet person. Bottom line: I didn’t want to like the slow cooker, but secretly, I quite fancy it.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning (in a Julie Andrews Singsong Kinda Way)

Before I knew anything about slow cookery, my knowledge was limited to:

  1. Take a small ham
  2. Throw it in the slow cooker
  3. Add a bottle of beer (the 70s dark stubby type)
  4. Douse with canned pineapple
  5. Flick on some brown sugar
  6. Let it slow cooker for a spell
  7. In a few hours, dinner is served!
chocolate pecan cake

Who knew you could bake a cake inside a slow cooker?

The Family Slow Cooker

Opening up the latest Best of Bridge was a joy. For real. I’ve been known to read cookbooks in bed, typically as a sleep aid. I certainly didn’t expect to be up after midnight combing through each and every page.

Best of Bridge baked ravioli

Bet you can’t wait to tuck into this cheesy baked pasta dish.

Here’s what happens when you read The Family Slow Cooker – you become transported. To a simpler time. To your past. To when your parents held dinner parties with suburban neighbours and set out place cards.

The typography is EXACTLY the same. It’s comforting. This cookbook made me feel like I could trust these recipes. In the way I doubted Death to Dieters Chicken Lasagne a decade ago and it worked out beautifully, I know if I make their Ridiculous Easy Chicken Curry they’ve got my back.

Better With Age

So, yeah, Best of Bridge has evolved with the times. It was so nice to see some Indian, Israeli, North African and other mildly ethnic dishes in their new cookbook. (Korean-style beef short ribs scream slow cooker, but they’re absent, which was the only major bummer.) The most pleasant aspect of this cookbook is how they’ve updated their recipes. The tinned soup is gone and I didn’t notice any cereal. (There was a fair amount of cereal in the 80s.) You’re eating more real food with these recipes.

Best of Bridge Hamburger Soup

Hearty Hamburger Soup makes an appearance.

Their most popular recipe of all time – Hamburger Soup is also packaged up into a slow cooker friendly version. Same with Schwarties Potatoes! The day after cracking this cookbook open, I resuscitated my slow cooker from the basement. I braised beef. I roasted beets (just like they told me to) and everyone loved it. I can’t wait to brew up some Spiced Pineapple Tea (page 329) or try the Caramelized Onion Pasta Carbonara (page 237).

Win a Copy For Yourself

If you love the Best of Bridge series as much as I do, you’ll love their latest cookbook. Want a copy for yourself? Simply comment below with your favourite Best of Bridge recipe before midnight, Wednesday, September 28, 2017 and I’ll randomly draw a winner from the entries.  You can also promo this post on Facebook or Twitter, just tag me, so I can record your entry.

In case you’re wondering, my all time favourite Best of Bridge recipe is crab mousse. Nary a family celebration went by without this savoury dip at our table. Hey, Bridge ladies! I’d love to see you update this recipe without the canned mushroom soup and cream cheese in your next cookbook.

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