Edmonton: Three Boars, Perfect Cocktails

edmonton

Before a recent trip to Edmonton I did my standard restaurant research. All trails seemed to lead to a place called Three Boars Eatery, located happily enough just a few blocks from my hotel in the neighborhood of Old Strathcona. I left a message requesting a booking the day before my arrival and two minutes later my phone pulsed. “Hi. You called. We’re full upstairs tomorrow night but there’s always room in the bar.”

The next night, after an airport shuttle ride through snow-choked streets and a quick check-in, I entered Three Boars’ bar area. It was populated solely by men, all of whom sported either a beard or a plaid shirt. Some, like me, boasted both. It felt like a homecoming. I overheard talk of poorly-behaved roommates at the far end of the bar, while the two gymrats next to me discussed in very technical terms the effect of steroids on a friend’s growth. The Rolling Stones ranted in the background; in the foreground, the service was attentive and nerdy. A revolving cast of three waiters asked questions and probed, made suggestions, and explained that the menu changes several times a week, sometimes daily.

Three Boars is about offal and local provenance. It’s full-fat and high protein. Three Boars is relaxed but it is also self-conscious, telling guests where all their food and drinks originate. I sipped local beers (fine, though nothing truly exceptional) and ate several small and very good courses: smoked pork jowls with grainy mustard, smoked steelhead trout, and bacon-wrapped figs stuffed with blue cheese. So far so good.

Then came the truly exceptional part of the evening, the part that made me sit up: a miso-braised pork belly sitting on steel-cut oats cooked in dashi, with scattered pickled mushroom, roe, and seaweed. The flavors were bold and beautifully balanced. The result was a wildly delicious and quite comforting savory breakfast, but for dinner. It entered the upper reaches of my global favorite food items chart with a bang.

Naturally I asked my waiters where else I should eat. “The food community is small in Edmonton, so everyone knows each other,” said one. To illustrate, he pointed out a chef sitting at the far end of the bar and then grabbed a fellow who was just leaving. “And this is Tarquin, the best bartender in Edmonton. You should have him make you cocktails.”Two nights prior, Tarquin Melnyk had won a Canadian Professional Bartenders Association prize as the best bartender in Alberta. He suggested that I visit Manor Casual Bistro, the restaurant where he tends bar, which I did the following night. I tried three of his complicated cocktails, thinking that each looked on paper as if it had too many ingredients, only to be walloped each time. These are remarkable, ambitious cocktails, some with either semi-exotic components (elderflower liqueur); others with remarkably exotic ingredients (phytoplankton).

Melnyk is personable well beyond reasonable customer service expectations. I had the feeling that, had I requested it, he could have devoted an evening to discussing new developments in the world of craft cocktails with me.

Edmonton’s dosage of friendliness was pleasing for sure, but what made my few days in Alberta’s frozen capital downright exciting was the vibe of being invited in, however briefly, to spend some time with a group of people making good food and drink for each other all bitter winter long.

[Image: Flickr | Hobolens]

Alaska Rail And Cruise Packages Add Value, Adventure

Alaska rail and cruise packages

Alaska rail and cruise packages, commonly called Cruise Tours, are heating up as more travelers opt to see more of what the land of the midnight sun has to offer. Choosing a multi-day land exploration, either before or after a seven-day cruise line sailing, gets passengers deeper into the Alaska heartland than possible by ship only. Now, a third-party travel source is offering to combine their package with a standard cruise line experience for something different.

Rocky Mountaineer is a rail line that offers over 45 Canadian vacation packages on four unique routes through British Columbia and Alberta, each rich in history and natural wonders. The luxurious train travels by daylight through the wild beauty of Canada’s West and is a great way to experience the majestic Canadian Rockies either before or after an Alaska cruise.

Traveling eastbound or westbound on the Rocky Mountaineer, the all-daylight rail journey departs three times per week on both the First Passage to the West and the Journey Through the Clouds routes from the end of April until the beginning of October. The Rainforest to Gold Rush route runs from the middle of May until the end of September, as does the Whistler Sea to Sky Climb route.On board, Rocky Mountaineer offers different levels/choices of service for rail journeys too. All passengers get onboard attendants that provide friendly service and informative commentary of the regions through which the train travels. Gold, Silver and Red levels of service offer more onboard amenities.

Alaska rail and cruise packagesNow, combining Rocky Mountaineer extensive experience on land with Holland America Line’s experience at sea, comes a package that bundles it all.

Called Canadian Rockies Highlights & Coastal Passage with Pre-Tour Cruise – 2013, the package includes three days onboard the Rocky Mountaineer, a seven-night Holland America Alaskan cruise, eight dinners, eight lunches, nine breakfasts and five nights of hotel accommodation. Also included are Banff & Seattle tours, a Yoho Park tour and Helicopter Flightseeing.

The offer is simple: book a Coastal Passage rail/cruise trip by March 28 directly through Rocky Mountaineer and earn up to $1300 in credits toward the cruise portion, or extra hotel nights/restaurant meals along the train portion in cities like Seattle, Vancouver and Banff.

Want to know more about what travel via rail in the Rockies is like? Check this video:




[Photo Credit- Rocky Mountaineer]

Photo Of The Day: Lake Louise

photo of the day

This Photo of the Day comes from Gadling Flickr pool member James Wheeler who captured this image taken at Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada, with a Nikon D-5000.

James captions the image:

“This must be one of the most photographed places in Canada. I didn’t get great weather for photos because it was cloudy when I was there but still an impressive place.”

Upload your best shots to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. Several times a week we choose our favorite images from the pool as Photos of the Day.

Tips for getting featured: in your Flickr account, check “Privacy and Permissions,” and check “yes” on “Allow others to share your stuff.” Adding information about your image does not hurt your chances either.

Photo Of The Day: The Other Direction

Photo of the day

This Photo of the Day comes from Gadling Flickr pool member by James Wheeler who captured this image taken in Alberta, Canada, with a Nikon D-5000.

James captions the image:

“I woke up early to one morning at Waterton Lake National Park to take photos some photos of the Prince of Wales hotel at sunrise. I arrived there at 6:00 a.m. and there was already a line up of about 10 other photographers with their tripods set up. I took the photo of the hotel I wanted then started to wonder around to see what else there was to photograph. Got this photo while all the other photographers will all still trying to get the perfect shot of the hotel. I think this once actually ended turning out just as good as my hotel shot.”

Upload your best shots to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. Several times a week we choose our favorite images from the pool as Photos of the Day.

Tips for getting featured: in your Flickr account, check “Privacy and Permissions,” and check “yes” on “Allow others to share your stuff.” Adding information about your image does not hurt your chances either.

Photo of the Day – Alberta sky

alberta sky

The Alberta sky is legendary. It’s big and bold and overwhelms the horizon. This photo, taken by Flickr user Chris Maki on the Stoney Indian Reserve, depicts the Alberta sky in all its glory. The cute church in the foreground is the McDougall Stoney Mission Church, built in 1875. It may not be the star of this show, but it certainly punctuates the sky awfully nicely.

Got an image you’d like to share with the world? Upload it to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. If we like it we’ll select it as a future Photo of the Day.