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.
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.
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.
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!
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?).
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.
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.
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.
Have you recently dined in Regina? What are your favourite eateries here?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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 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.
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!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge AKA Will and Kate are visiting Canada right now. I’ve been sussing out their Royal Tour itinerary, and I thought it would be fun to recreate it, but with some added savings (and a few tweaks to the official schedule).
A Trip Fit for a King (or a Duke and Duchess) for Less
Just like the Duke and Duchess, start your royal experience with a flight to B.C.’s capital – book a return flight from Calgary to Victoria for as little as $344. Once you’ve arrived, settle in at the newly renovated Fairmont Empress, and experience the hotel’s regal connection that began in 1919 with Edward, Prince of Wales’ visit.
Unfortunately the royal family (yes, their kids are coming!) aren’t staying at the Empress this visit. They’re basing themselves out of Government House. Still, you can get a regal cocktail treatment at Q at the Empress. Afterwards, journey through the famous sites of Victoria on an evening Royal Horse Drawn Carriage Tour.
Float from Sea to Sky
Hop on a float plane or take the ferry to Vancouver for an evening of dining and sightseeing on a Harbour Sunset Dinner Cruise. To continue the jet-set experience, cap off the night with a stay in the 5-star Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel. (We stayed here last March and it was heaven!)
Today, Monday September 26, the Royal Highnesses are visiting the Great Bear Rainforest. That’s cool and all, but I suggest spending a little more time on the mainland. Your royal vacation wouldn’t be complete without a tour up the coast to Whistler for an unforgettable experience that combines the best of luxury and adventure. Stop in Squamish for a Sea-to-Sky adventure, where you’re whisked up via gondola, taking in the sights of Howe Sound.
A-OK in the Okanagan
Next up, the royal couple is headed to Kelowna on the 27th. While they’re headed to Mission Hill, there are plenty of other wineries to explore. Get your bearings on a scenic tour through the Okanagan Valley wine country and relaxing cruise on the pristine waters of Lake Okanagan. For eats, check out my recommendations on the 10 best spots to hit in the valley.
Next up is a visit to Whitehorse. They’ll visit the MacBride Museum and will take in the festivities on Main Street. Then they’ll head out of town to receive a traditional welcome from the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. Afterwards, they’re headed to Montana Mountain, one of the world’s most picturesque destinations for mountain biking.
Back to B.C.
After the Yukon, the royals fly back to Victoria to attend a children’s party on the grounds of Government House. It’s invite only, so I suggest you hit The Butchart Gardens instead. For lunch it’s gotta be a proper pub grub. Overlooking the sparkling inner harbour, Spinnakers is Canada’s oldest brewpub.
Spend the afternoon exploring local shops, such as Sitka, a lifestyle shop that designs with adventure in mind. Cap off your day with some British comfort food at The Guild.
From Victoria, it’s easy to enjoy the outdoors like the Royal Family with a day trip to Haida Gwaii. Experience the natural beauty of the northernmost rain-forest in the world by canoeing, fishing and visiting the Haida Heritage Centre and Museum – all experiences the royal tour has scheduled.
Return on a High Note
The final day of their tour will be spent back in Victoria, but instead of meeting charities and sailing a tall ship as they will be, I recommend taking a breather before heading back home. Tucked behind the Fairmont Empress, the Magnolia Hotel & Spa is a swish boutique hotel that doles out luxurious amenities for guests. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to visit their spa, and getting a massage or facial before your return flight is the perfecting ending to any trip.
Phew! Now I get why these royal tours are so taxing! (Especially for the all the Canadians behind the scenes making sure everything goes smoothly.) Are you going to be following the Duke and Duchesses Tour of Canada?
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:
- Take a small ham
- Throw it in the slow cooker
- Add a bottle of beer (the 70s dark stubby type)
- Douse with canned pineapple
- Flick on some brown sugar
- Let it slow cooker for a spell
- In a few hours, dinner is served!
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.
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.
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.
Subscribe via Email
Follow me on TwitterMy Tweets