Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Glimpse of Britain

There is afternoon tea and there is Afternonn Tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel at the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in Waterton, Alberta, Canada.

Described as: "Afternoon Tea is experienced in the relaxing atmosphere of the stylishly restored Prince of Wales Hotel Lobby, overlooking panoramic vistas where the Canadian Rockies and sparkling blue waters of Waterton Lakes collide. Blending the wild and sophisticated into one, Afternoon Tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel is a unique Waterton Lakes National Park experience."

Take pleasure in Tea FortĂ©™ teas with innovative porcelain teaware, a selection of homemade pastries, assorted finger sandwiches, scones, jam, and seasonal berries. Tea Forte's signature porcelain CafĂ© Cup, ceramic Tea Trays, and pyramid infusers help transform this Prince of Wales Hotel Afternoon Tea service into a ritual of rejuvenation."

The charge of $29.95 (CAN) per person put a different perspective on the "ritual of rejuvenation."

So, we decided to enjoy the "panoramic vista" from the "relaxing atmosphere" of the Hotel's beautiful lobby.

But time was short. So, what does one eat when dining with a Prince? We had our choice of either the main dining room or the lounge. Both have the same luncheon menu, but in the lounge we would be able to snatch a seat by a large window with a view overlooking the lake. That choice was easy, the lounge it would be. After reviewing the menu, we both decided on choices “from across the pond.” (Do you find that phase as annoying as I do?)

For Chuck it would be the Shepherd’s Pie with a cup of tomato soup as a starter. The soup was a winner. Composed of roasted tomatoes, red onions, basil, and tarragon, it had both a bright and a smoky flavor. Now I am normally not a big fan of tarragon – one of those seasonings where less is more – but the kitchen used this seasoning so that only a slight undertone of anise flavor was present. At some point in the cooking process, a generous dollop of butter was added to make this a rich and satisfying soup.

Traditionally, Shepherd’s Pie was made with lamb or mutton. Fortunately for Chuck, the hotel’s kitchen abandoned tradition and used extremely tender chunks of beef with carrots and peas. The beef, along with carrots and peas, were mixed with just enough beefy and peppery gravy to enrobe the filling. This was not one of those Shepherd’s Pies where, once you open the potato layer, you find little filling swimming in much gravy. The mashed potatoes, decoratively piped on the filling mixture, were real mashed potatoes – no instant here. His lunch also came with a side salad of crisp greens with tomatoes and red onion rings and dressed with light vinaigrette.

I chose the Fish and Chips – two generous pieces of halibut with a batter so light and so crisp as to be almost transparent in spots. And the batter retained the crispness until the last bite was eaten. The fish underneath this perfect batter was moist, flakey, and sweet and needed only a light spritz of lemon. Tartar sauce would have overwhelmed the sweet flavor of this halibut.

With the fish came a veritable mountain of fries that I suspect never saw a freezer. They were slightly thicker than shoestrings which meant they could be fried to a crisp finish without the interior becoming dry. When I looked at my plate, I was reminded of our favorite restaurant in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, where fish and chips comes with more fries that even Chuck can usually finish. My other side was an excellent shredded cole slaw with a light creamy dressing, and I suspect, some thinly shredded bell pepper.

Now I am normally suspicious of lodge food. I frequently describe the food at park lodges as being the essence of corporate food. But not the food at the Prince of Wales Hotel. This was definitely a 4.5 Addie meal and had the side benefit of a beautiful view.

Before boarding the Red Bus for the remainder of our travels, we had time to photograph the tourist destination town of Waterton below the Hotel.

The Prince of Wales Hotel is a subject that has many "good sides." This view from the town of Waterton shows the majesty of the Hotel as it appears to watch over the town.

We took a short trip up a hill in Waterton to Cameron Falls. The falls drop about 15 feet over a ledge of bedrock which has been thrust upwards at an angle. Because of this angle, when the water reaches the precipice, the stream starts sliding sideways. This causes part of the water to cascade to the left, while part of the water plunges downward, then cascades to the left. The result is a segmented waterfall which crosses over itself.

And yet, even with all the activity in the Falls, the water in the stream below the Falls is quite shallow.

As we retraced our route to the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier, we passed many peaceful scenes like this one.

A relaxing couple of hours in Canada.

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