Snowy scenes and icy escapades are what draw most travellers to Alberta in the winter, but this Canadian province proves it's more than just a ski destination. The likes of Calgary and Edmonton are drawing discerning foodies with unique dining experiences, while Banff and Lake Louise offer up signature outdoor fun with a gourmet twist. So, if you'd rather dig into a beautiful plate rather than the freshly fallen snow, here are four winter culinary experiences not to miss.
Snowshoe Fondue Tour
If you're heading anywhere in Alberta in the winter, it would be remiss to not play in the snow just a little bit, so why not sign up for a snowshoe fondue tour? It's the perfect way to combine food fun with the stunning wintery landscape. Banff's Sunshine Village Historical Snowshoe Tour is part of the Canadian Tourism Commission's signature series and takes guests on a guided walk into the heart of world heritage listed Banff National Park. Admire the beauty of the untouched snow covering the alpine surrounds in an iridescent white blanket. Oh yeah, and the surrounding Rocky Mountain views aren't too bad either. Hot chocolate and cookies are provided along the trail for a little warming sustenance before finishing your trek with a traditional Swiss-style cheese and vegetable fondue at the Chimney Corner Lounge and Wine Bar. The trail is suitable for ages 12 and up as well as all fitness levels.
Search Out A Few Diamonds
Forget Michelin Stars, Canada is all about the bling. The CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) is the leading authority on taste and luxury in Canada, awarding restaurants across the north with their coveted diamonds. Alberta's dining scene has been sprinkled with its fair share of shimmering gems, but if you want 5-star, you need to get to Banff. Situated in the beautiful Rimrock Resort Hotel, this fine dining experience is all about exquisitely presented French cuisine influenced by fresh local ingredients. There are several multi-course menus to choose from, including the 10 course degustation for the hard-core food connoisseurs. There is also a team of certified Sommeliers to perfectly pair each course with the right sip. The only thing that could rival the beauty on the plates is the astounding Rocky Mountain views, treating diners to staggering alpine panoramas. Eden is open Wednesday through Sunday and reservations are a must.
Death By Chocolate
Travellers with a bit of a sweet tooth are not left out, as the Alberta culinary scene definitely caters to chocolate lovers. There are a couple different chocolate-themed experiences in the province, including Rimrock restaurant's (at the Fairmont Palliser) 'Death by Chocolate' dessert buffet. Though, for a more intimate chocolate experience, venture approximately 30 minutes from Banff to the small town of Canmore for a private tasting at Le Chocolatier. This boutique chocolate shop hand makes their creations on site, which you can watch through the glass windows in the shop. However, you can enhance your chocolate experience by booking a private tour and tasting in which you'll get to taste the cocoa beans and select chocolates, watch the process up close and discuss the chocolate making process with owner John Spear.
Calgary Farmers' Market
The folks in Calgary aren't going to let a little cold and snow dampen their market game. The Calgary Farmers' Markets are open all year round! Luckily it's undercover. Aspiring gourmands are sure to hit their stride strutting the aisles of this sprawling complex alive with more than 80 market stalls selling everything from art to western wear. Though, it's the food stuff that draws most to this bustling building. Local producers showcase their finest fare, allowing you to sample the spoils straight from the source. Award-winning cheeses, 'Extraordinary' sausages, wildflower honey and European-inspired deli meats are just the beginning. All that market browsing is sure to stir up an appetite, which is why there are plenty of restaurants ready and waiting in the food court. Dismiss any notions of shopping mall dishes, though, as we're talking top quality delights with an international flair. Think more along the lines of smokehouses, handcrafted sandwiches, authentic Greek recipes, Taquerias and Italian from scratch. The markets are open Thursday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm.