THE CAFÉ RADIO, CARSTAIRS, AB
2.5 hours south of Edmonton
Chef Sheldon Valleau
This place is great: it’s a restaurant with a radio station run by a couple of touring musicians. And the food is delicious, too!
You Gotta Eat… the Gourmet Lasagna
Locals come here specifically for chef Valleau’s lasagna. He serves a hefty portion filled with beef, sausage, tomato sauce and his signature roasted garlic béchamel, which adds a French twist to the dish. To begin, chef browns his Alberta ground beef and fries up slices of chorizo sausage. Next he sautés garlic, onion and herbs along with his tomato sauce, and pours the mixture into the beef and sausage. While that simmers, he roasts more garlic, and does the same to red peppers with black truffle salt. Finally he layers a lasagna pan with noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, more noodles, the roasted garlic and red peppers, zucchini, more tomato sauce, more noodles, béchamel sauce and a final layer of noodles with tomato sauce, mozzarella, smoked gouda and Parmesan. If that weren’t enough, the whole thing is finished with a dollop of house-made pesto and sun-dried tomatoes.
BEAR STREET TAVERN, BANFF, AB
1.5 hours west of Calgary
Chef Kirk Thompson
Banff is a place people from all over the world picture when they think of Canada. The Bear Street Tavern does Canadiana on your plate, but they’re not cheesy about it. They save the cheese for one of their most popular menu items.
You Gotta Eat… the Pork Belly Mac and Cheese
For this rockin’ dish, chef Thompson scores pork belly and rubs it with his house seasoning—cumin, chillies, oregano, thyme, garlic, onion powder, cayenne—and a sweet mixture of golden honey, brown sugar and cinnamon. He cooks the pork until it’s tender and juicy: it’s baked in a cast iron pan along with caramelized cauliflower that’s cooked right in the pork fat. Next comes the pasta, lots of cheddar cheese, and the chef’s signature bacon béchamel, a rich sauce infused with smoky-sweet, salty bacon. A scoop of breadcrumbs is baked on top to provide a crunchy crust; it’s all served in the same cast iron pan it was baked in, garnished with cherry tomatoes and green onion.