Meet the Creator of Alberta Food Tours
In the years that I’ve known Alberta Food Tours creator Karen Anderson I have never seen her without a smile on her face and love pouring from her heart. It sounds corny, I know, but bear with me because if you get to know Karen you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. Her inner light, or peace, is the result of someone who has found her calling in life. Karen lives her life by helping others and in turn, you could say that she is living exactly how she is meant to.
This wasn’t always the case. Karen worked as a nurse for many years but became unsatisfied with helping people who were ill when she noticed that the majority her patients became ill as a result of a poorly lived life. Many of the diseases that appeared in her patients stemmed from poor nutrition and diet. Not only does knowing where the food on your table comes from help consumers make wiser food choices but it also helps the farmer or producer live better lives as well.
Building Alberta’s Food Knowledge
So, how exactly does Karen educate people and build their local food knowledge? Beginning as a food journalist she began making connections with other like minded people including producers, restaurateurs, and farmers. Following that initial preparation, she began the weekend Calgary Farmer’s Market tours in 2006 which are still going strong in 2018. Tours of other Calgary neighbourhoods were added as the demand arose, then Calgary Food Tours (as it was called in the beginning) expanded to Canmore and Edmonton in the Summer of 2016. Through Alberta Food Tours Karen encourages culinary tourists to ‘Eat. Engage. Explore’ the best that Alberta has to offer.
From Alberta Food Tours to Food Artisans of Alberta
In her spare time, Karen blogs (Savour It All and Faces, Places and Plates) and is a Taste Canada award winning cookbook author for A Spicy Touch – Family Favourites from Noorbanu Nimji’s Kitchen with her Indian cooking mentor (and legend in her own right) Noorbanu Nimji. Her newest book Food Artisans of Alberta, along with Matilde Sanches-Turri, is due for release tomorrow (June 26, 2018). It showcases over 200 food artisans, farmer’s markets, and delicious watering holes all over Alberta…Northern Alberta, Edmonton, Central Alberta, Calgary, and Southern Alberta.
Culinary Tourism at the Banff Springs Hotel
Even with a schedule that most people would find overwhelming, Karen and her team at Alberta Food Tours have created a few new tours for this year including the Eat the Castle culinary tour at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The first official Eat the Castle tour starts on Thursday June 28th but I was invited along to experience it as media during yesterday’s dry run. Since this was my first ever Alberta Food Tour I didn’t really know what to expect or if I would learn anything…but I did!
The tour starts out with a brief history of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the construction of Canada’s grand railway hotels. Did you know:
- The Banff Springs Hotel was opened in 1888 and was only open during the summer seasons until 1969?
- The Banff Springs Hotel originally cost $250,000 to build and was built opposite to how the architect intended it to be.
I found that there was just enough history during Karen’s tour…just enough to keep my interest from wandering but I suspect she has much more up her sleeve!
With each stop along the tour, there are tasty dishes to be had…including a delicious BLT Sandwich at STOCK Food & Drink just inside the hotel lobby. I don’t mean just assembled…I mean entirely MADE on premises. The amazing sourdough is baked in their bakery, the bacon is smoked in house, garlic scallion aioli made every 2-3 days, the lettuce and tomatoes are grown in the on-site greenhouse. The effort and care that goes into that one sandwich is impressive on it’s own. Just think about the effort it takes to prepare the 1.5 million annual meals they prepare for their staff, guests, events, and culinary tourists.
How does the hotel keep up? With staggering statistics like ‘5000 eggs are used in the Hollandaise for Brunch on Mother’s Day’, there’s no way for the hotel to be entirely self sustaining. During the tour Karen explains the importance of the hotel’s partnership with 25 local farms and ranchers such as Mans Organic Eggs, Benchmark Angus, and Fairwinds Farm Cheese. The culinary standard of excellence that the Banff Springs Hotel has maintained for the last 130 years wouldn’t be possible without these partnerships. Castle BLT Mussels Duck Rilettes Steak Tartare
Alberta’s Seven Food Pillars
Speaking of partnerships, Alberta Food Tours have worked closely with Tannis Such from Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance to define exactly what Alberta cuisine is. We’re a province of immigrants but our natural culinary history is truly unique consisting of seven food ‘pillars’ which are all covered on this tour. The seven food pillars of Alberta are: Bison, Beef, Canola, Honey, Red Fife, Root Vegetables, and Saskatoon Berries.
It’s worth noting that all the fish and seafood served in the hotel are sustainably farmed or caught according to the Oceanwise designation. This includes the Mussels in the Moules Frites served in the newly opened Vermillion Room.
So, there you have it. A little bit of history, a taste of that famous Fairmont hospitality, and a generous helping of Alberta’s best foods. Eat the Castle is a great way for world travellers, culinary enthusiasts, and locals to experience so many of Alberta’s culinary gems all in one go.
Other posts about Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Alberta Food Tours – website
The Eat the Castle Tours run Thursdays and Fridays 3-5 pm during summer months *subject to change
Disclaimer: I was graciously hosted by Alberta Food Tours and experienced this culinary tour free of charge. My opinions are my own…and I can’t wait to attend another tour with AFT!