I always thought my stomach was bottomless but this week on a tour of the 2nd Annual Waterton Food Festival I learned that even my stomach has a limit. I had THE BEST time on Thursday and had the opportunity to view Waterton through a whole new lens- the food lens!
The Waterton Food Festival kicked off on Friday, May 27 and runs until Monday, June 6. Twelve different restaurants are offering various food packages and Vimy’s and Lakeside Chophouse are offering long table dinners. This is such a fun way to experience Waterton, especially if you’re a regular visitor to the park, it’s a new and unique way to experience the town.
I was happy to spend the day with my buddy Jo from Living Mint Green- you will see a lot of her in this post.
The day started off at the docks with a two hour pie cruise, you read that right pie and a cruise.
There were several types of pie available to the cruisers including strawberry rhubarb, espresso-cream caramelized banana pie with a waffle cone crust, and a pot pie that looked delicious. I wasn’t able to try any of them, but Trappers Mountain Grill kindly set aside a saskatoon berry compote that they use in their pies just for me. It was such a nice surprise when I wasn’t expecting anything.
We set off south on Waterton Lake into some rain clouds and for a small portion of the trip we stayed below and stayed dry. The rain and clouds couldn’t detract from the beautiful scenery.
After we hit Goat Haunt in Montana and turned around the sun came out and shone on us the entire way back.
There was one spot we stopped to revel in the beauty and I couldn’t stop taking photos. The burst of sunshine made the water so blue.
When we made it back to shore it was surrey time. Jo and I paired off and followed behind our guides for the day, Candace and Tawny. (They were riding in a surrey named Betty and I was very jealous.)
What was great about being paired with Jo is she has a competitive side like me. Throughout the day we began to get more and more competitive with the rest of our group always trying to “win.” She captured video of me almost running into our tour guides and having to wrench the hand brake! The best was when we rode from Vimy’s to Pat’s to return the surreys and I gave it all I had to beat everyone. Ha ha! Thanks for humouring me Jo!
Trappers Mountain Grill
This was our first of many “snack stops” and little did I know how much food I was going to pack away that day. I have never been in Trappers and I really appreciated the cabin-y, warm vibe it gave off. It’s just the place you see yourself hunkering down on a rainy Waterton evening. The best part of Trappers was talking to the owner Wendy, a sweetheart who has been working in Waterton for 47 years, first running Zum’s and then Trappers.
Trappers has their own meat smoker so everything we tried had a delicious smokey taste to it. They had a special gluten/dairy free plate for me and I enjoyed it heartedly, my favourite was the spicy smoked sausage!
This was the biggest surprise on the tour. I spend a lot of my time in Waterton but don’t often go into the gift shops, so when they took us into a gift shop that had a tea bar that could rival a certain mall chain store I was happily surprised. They had a tea tasting using locally produced honey for sweetener. I made sure to sip each one and have to say the huckleberry was incredible.
I couldn’t find any signage on the outside of the building so if you want to find this tea room it is one or two stores down from Zum’s.
We stopped at Zum’s for a quick chicken taste but I forgot to take a photo. They had a single wing set aside for me that wasn’t breaded so I enjoyed that and we headed off for the next stop.
Was I ever surprised when we pulled into Pearl’s Cafe because they switched up the location. The cafe has moved into the part that was formerly a gift shop and the area that I have known as Pearl’s for years is now the Pizza of Waterton area. I really liked the switch because the cafe seems smaller and cozier and more intimate now. But a Pearl’s without Keirstyn just isn’t as cool.
They were handing out espresso bar samples that I couldn’t try out which is too bad because they looked ah-mazing! One of the guys on our tour said he felt a good boost of energy afterward.
From espresso to wieners we went to Wieners of Waterton next where I had my mind blown because they have cold brew on tap- not beer- COFFEE! I didn’t know that was possible but it was smooth and tasty (shout out to Crowsnest Coffee). Everyone in the group really enjoyed this stop and not just because we taste tested fries sauces and hot dogs (they had a gluten free one for me) but because we spent a lot of time talking to the owners Max & John.
We really enjoyed listening to how they started this company without a menu, using their moms extra refrigerator and have grown it into a well known local spot. These brothers speak passionately about Waterton and being part of the community with their young families and it was such a wonderful personal touch to the tour.
By now, we were all stuffed. I could only eat half my hot dog so I wrapped it up and put it in my purse for a midnight snack (Ryan would later eat it for me).
We didn’t have far to go for our next stop of Waffleton. Also owned by Max and John, Waffleton is right next door to Wieners of Waterton. John told us how he and his wife were inspired on a trip to Belgium to make custom waffles.
Waffleton is more than waffles though, they offer frozen yogurt with topping (by the ounce), espresso and smoothies! I didn’t get to try the waffles but John insisted I take some dole soft serve because it’s dairy free.
Feeling stuffed, the group slowly pedaled our way up to The Taco Bar (owned by the wonderful Julie) and we were excited to be greeted by beer! Julie even had a gluten free beer for me and while I savoured each sip I realized that it was the first beer I’ve had in years.
We had a mess of chips and salsa and two kinds of guacamole to test out. Everyone went around and found a spot on the walls to sign.
At this point in the tour I was stuffed and I couldn’t imagine eating any more and we still had a four course dinner ahead of us! We pedalled into Vimy’s where we sipped on Waterton-tini’s and ate delicious mussels! I found the martini too sweet and ate four mussels instead. I didn’t hear all what was in them but the flavour was amazing.
We headed to Lakeside for our long table dinner where I learned you can guess how much food you will be served by how much silverware is placed before you.
I really enjoyed this portion of the tour because by now everyone had talked and our group felt cohesive and we chatted easily as we were served champagne and wine.
I’m no food blogger but I feel like each course deserves at least a sentence describing it. Because I love all food the description for every dish is “ah-mazing!”
White truffle shrimp and organic cauliflower soup– I took the photo before they added the cauliflower soup which I loved because it was creamy but dairy free so I was free to eat away! The soup could have been hotter but flavour-wise it was delicious.
Pan seared ling cod– This dish was modified for me and didn’t have the brie or the butter sautee but I found the flavour of the fish combined with onion and kale amazing.
Slow Roasted Duck Breast with Duck Confit Crepes– My modified dish didn’t have crepes, it was basically duck on duck. Before now I had never had duck and I didn’t know what to expect but I fell absolutely in love with it! The flavour was so rich and juicy. (I sadly forgot to take a pic).
By this point I was beyond full. I don’t know how food writers do this on a regular basis because I was so full I didn’t think I could eat anything else. And then comes….
Char Grilled Alberta Beef Tenderloin– Steak! Alberta steak AND it’s topped with lobster. Full or not, I ate this dish with relish. The beef was cooked just the right medium-rare I like.
Dessert for everyone else was house made pannacotta- for little old me it was a plate of fruit. I absolutely didn’t mind though because I had pushed my body past it’s capacity to eat.
To top off this wonderful dinner a rainbow appeared in front of Mount Vimy and a few of us ran/waddled out there to capture the moment. Ryan had arrived at this point so I made him come out and get a photo with me.
At this point the wine had been flowing, I know I was feeling flush, and the rest of the group was either heading home or planning to hit the Thirsty Bear. Ryan and I took our leave and headed to our hotel room to drop off our bags and head out on a walk.
I originally planned on us doing a hike up Bear’s Hump but I hadn’t anticipate all the food I was going to eat. I was so full the best I could do was a stroll to Cameron Falls and back.
I did take my new camera (thanks Nick!) up to Prince of Wales that night to try my hand at nighttime photography. It didn’t go very well and I think I need to take a class.
I was so full though that I didn’t sleep well that night at all! Ha ha ha! It was such an incredible day and I had a blast but now I know if I ever go on a food tour again to fast the day before.
The next morning I woke up and felt like I was hung over. I sent a text to Jo to see if she was up and the girl was already out running! I felt like I couldn’t move.
I was hungry but couldn’t stomach the thought of solid food. Luckily Waffleton has smoothies and an easy to digest smoothie was just what my stomach needed.
Ryan and I went on a relaxing stroll along the shoreline and enjoyed the beauty of where we were.
After our walk, Ryan headed home and I met Jo at the Bears Hump trailhead for a quick hike/gab session. I felt so sluggish and off from the previous days eats and I huffed and puffed as we climbed up at a quick pace. When we got to the top we saw a huge rain cloud moving in so we stopped for a couple of photos and then headed back down.
We were drenched by the time we got back to our cars. With that we said our goodbyes and headed off. Jo headed to Calgary for Bodypump and I headed home to my couch where I didn’t move for the rest of the day!
Overall, it was an incredible 24 hours and it’s been a long time since I had so much fun!
If this post has piqued your interest go visit mywaterton.ca and check out the information on the 2016 Waterton Food Festival. I think what struck me the most about it is how affordable it is! I know in the past I’ve always associated “fine dining” with big $$$ but the long table dinner’s are only $50 a person. To put that into perspective, Ryan and I spent $50 last weekend on KFC for the kids so $50 for a luxurious, slow, four course dinner of amazing food with an incredible view is worth it.
If you’re like me and have food allergies or intolerances be sure to call ahead and let the restaurant know because every single place was able to accommodate me which I found amazing.
A big thank you to Chinook Country Tourism for opening my eyes to yet another amazing aspect of Waterton that I hadn’t noticed before! I’ll be planning some epic meals after my hikes this summer!