L’Ordre Mondial des Gourmet Degustateurs, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
The Royal Canadian Pacific
Saturday, June 2, 2007
By Ron Coggan
The most recent activity of the Calgary branch was exceptional, a gourmet wine and food train ride, Calgary to Lake Louise and back, featuring A Taste of Canada.
The Royal Canadian Pacific is one of Calgary’s hidden treasures. A fleet of restored CPR business cars from the 1920’s regularly journey around the Rockies and the rest of Canada and deliver spectacular scenery and some of the best food and wine possible. Our journey began in the Royal Canadian Pacific Pavilion with a welcome and safety briefing from Allan Parris, Manager Hospitality Services. The entire culinary and service staff were introduced and we then boarded the train via The Mount Stephen business car. A very ‘Royal’ business car having carried Sir Winston Churchill, The Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Elizabeth of the UK, as well as many other dignitaries over the years. The Royal Canadian Pacific Pavilion was specially built to house the restored business cars and is adjacent to Calgary’s grand old hotel, The Fairmont Palliser.
The program began at 4PM and the train, consisting of five luxurious restored business cars, pulled out of Calgary at 4:30PM en route to Lake Louise. We were to explore food and wine from Canada’s Provinces and Territories on board the Craigellachie dining car. The space limitation of the dining car is 24; so we were an intimate group and the journey was sold out. Once on board we enjoyed some spectacular appetizers created by the train’s three talented young chefs, Denis Sirois, Eric Maheux and Bradley Joyce accompanied by Canada’s 2004 Best Sparkling Wine Award winner, from Ontario, and selected by our wine facilitator, David Walker, of Vins de Terroir Wine Selections of Canmore, Alberta and formerly Wine Director of The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
The award winning ‘champagne’: Henry of Pelham, Cuvee Catherine, Blanc de Blanc
The train sped along at 25 – 40 MPH to Lake Louise with the great Bow River and Rocky Mountain scenery to behold. We were called to dinner shortly after touring the train and enjoying the appetizers. The real adventure began next with the following magnificent Canadian wine and food pairings:
• BC Sea Urchin en Brioche
• Henry of Pelham Sparkling Rose, Cuvee Catherine
• Quebec Brome Lake Duck Consomme, Won Ton Duck Confit
• 2005 Cedar Creek Estate Chardonnay
• Lake Winnipeg Pickerel with Greens
• 2005 Norman Hardy Chardonnay, an exceptional wine and none left in bottles in the country and considered by Jancis Robinson as one of the great Chardonnay’s of the world
• Saskatchewan Lentil and Goat Cheese Parcel
• 2004 Domaine de la Vougerie, a French winery owned by a French Canadian
• Maritime Lobster Gelee with Crème Fraiche and Canadian Sturgeon Caviar
This brought us to the halfway point of our adventure as we arrived at Lake Louise Station, a beautiful log cabin style station, immortalized in the movie, Dr. Zhivago. The train stopped for about 40 minutes at Lake Louise as the train’s diesels turned around, one a vintage GP diesel in 1950’s CPR colours. It was a gloriously sunny day with temperatures in the mid 20’s. Photo opportunities were abundant within this wonderful mountain setting. We reboarded the train around 8PM. We were welcomed on board with Pol Roger NV Brut Champagne (in magnums), a champagne choice of Sir Winston Churchill. The second half of our dinner experience followed.
• Northwest Territories Muskox with Saskatoon Berry Jus and Yukon Potato Bannock.
• 2003 Mission Hill SLC Syrah
• Alberta cheeses with Okanagan Fruit Chutney
• 2003 Stratus Red
• Ontario Maple Trio – Crème Brulee, Mousse Crème Glace and Taffy
• Pillitteri Cabernet Franc Icewine
The wine and food pairings were professionally and entertainingly described by Mr. Walker. Each chef talked about his inspiration and passion for the courses. We finished our dinner with a digestif of Peninsula Ridge Ratafia, a welcome to The Royal Canadian Pacific family, a rousing singsong and a surprise from the Royal Canadian Pacific, presentation menu booklets for each guest autographed by the three chefs.
We relaxed to the classic Tuscan CPR red business car lounges for post dinner drinks and rolled back to Calgary as the sun set on an evening to remember. A once in a lifetime experience.