Sunday, July 25, 2010

I Knew I Should Have Ordered the Salmon

As Chuck explained in yesterday’s blog, we rolled into Cochrane, Alberta much earlier in the day than we expected. We were hungry and there was no time to research Cochrane restaurants, so we got in the truck and set forth without a plan. Soon we were on Main Street where we saw the Rockyview Hotel with its adjoining Canyon Rose Steakhouse. Looked like we were in business.

The Rockyview Hotel (the small lobby in photo, left) was built in 1904 by Charles and Dora Burnham and was known as the Cochrane Hotel. Since that time, the little country hotel, the third oldest working hotel in Alberta, has been the hub of social and business activities in the community and a favorite eating place of local cattlemen.

The space now occupied by the Canyon Rose was once a beer parlor and was transformed many times during the years of Prohibition, becoming a flower shop, bakery, store, and tea house. After Prohibition, the hotel became a trendsetter, being the only establishment around to bend the rules and allow ladies to enjoy a drink in the company of men.

Under the ownership of Clem Watisser and Joanne Gau, the hotel’s dining room has been restored and features cherry wood wain-scotting, a wonderful pressed tin ceiling, antiques, historical photos, and a player piano.

We were both in the mood for no frills food. Chuck ordered the Classic Beef Dip, which came with an order of fries and a cup of red wine au jus. This was a pretty good version of the classic French Dip. The meat, while not exactly shaved, was still sliced relatively thin and was tender with great beefy taste. (Like Montana, Alberta is beef country.) The roll was perfect for the sandwich—a crisp crust but soft center which allowed it to absorb the au jus without disintegrating. The au jus was intensely flavored, but a tad on the salty side.

Using our experiences in Nova Scotia as a guide, we should have remembered that a side of fries means the entire state of Idaho worth of fries. Since we had the choice of soup, salad, or fries, we should have shared a salad and an order of fries. As it was, the fries were hot and crisp, but we were unable to finish both of our side orders, and a good third came home with us to be reheated later.

My initial inclination was to order the Grilled Salmon Sandwich—a salmon filet on flatbread with pickled onions, capers, dill cream cheese, and lettuce. But remembering that Alberta is beef country, I decided on the basic hamburger.

On our last trip to Nova Scotia, we had a light dinner one night in a brew pub near the Bay of Fundy. When I ordered a hamburger, I asked for it to be cooked medium rare. The waitress looked at me like I had lost my mind and stated: “It is against the law to serve undercooked beef. We only cook them medium well.” Having done some cursory research, it appears that there is no such law, but restaurants, wanting to avoid any possible litigation, place the onus on the government for their risk avoidance.

Remembering that experience, I asked the waitress at Canyon Rose if I could have my hamburger cooked medium. “No” she replied. That didn’t surprise me. What she said next did. “Anyway, I think they cook all of them ahead of time in the morning.” I knew that I was in trouble. Yes, I could have changed my order, but decided to stay with the hamburger.

Well, my hamburger arrived and looked promising. It had the crispy edges that I so enjoy, was about a half-inch thick, and came with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and two onion rings speared on the top of the bun. And, if it had been cooked earlier in the day, it was no drier than one would expect from a medium well burger. But something was wrong. I then realized that the texture was different and somewhat mushy. Needless to say, this detracted from my burger enjoyment.

I would give Chuck’s beef dip a solid 4.0 Addies but my hamburger doesn’t rate anything above 2.5 Addies.

I knew I should have ordered the salmon.

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