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Park Yourself in Banff for Fondue at the Distillery

By Calli Naish

When you move to a new town, you subconsciously search for old familiarity in the new surroundings. Cheese, bread, good whiskey—these are some of my old faithfuls – and thankfully, although I just recently moved to Canmore, I have some good company to share my food with. On a near weekly basis, we meet in Canmore, Lake Louise or Banff and study the comfort of food in one of far too many establishments to choose from. Our most recent savory library was Park Distillery.

As the name suggests, this restaurant offers no shortage of cocktails to choose from, and cocktails were our first order of business. We settled on two beverages of completely different styles both made from Park Distillery’s own spirits. The Backcountry Tea was selected for its rye base, sweet citrus flavours, and mint melodies. The tasting notes of the tea didn’t appeal to me, so I opted for the bolder flavours offered by the Observation Peak. I would be lying if I said I chose it for any other reason than the smoked cedar square it wore (which is currently being used as an air-freshener in my car, still exuding a log cabin fireplace aroma each time I open the door). Perfection.

With drinks suiting our personalities in hand, we were shown to our table and we sipped in happy silence while perusing the menu, which offers a variety of starters, smaller bites, shareable items, and full campfire-style dinners. It didn’t take long before we had decided that we were in need of a little cheese therapy and ordered the Banff Ave. Fondue to start and, believing that the chicken would be a nice lite fare after this decadence, two orders of the ¼ Rotisserie Chicken as our main. While we waited for our orders we took in the atmosphere, which is a little rustic Canadian, and a little industrial pub. Warm plaids and dark woods create a laid back feel, and are complemented by the denim-clad servers, while the garage doors and metallic sheen off the glass cased still remind you that this isn’t your average “backcountry cabin” themed restaurant. If we’d shown up on time we’d have been able to tour the distillery, but we showed up a little later than 3:30, and so simply admired its copper presence from a distance. The place was busy but comfortable, and thankfully there was minimal wait as we were quickly dipping into our first course.

We were presented with a large fondue pot of bubbling Gruyere, accompanied by several pieces of lightly toasted bread, a selection of pickles, sliced pear and radish. In a matter of minutes were considering asking for more bread as we had consumed all but the radish slices (neither of us particularly like radish) and were left staring longingly into the lingering cheese. Before we had a chance to ask for additional dipping items the forks had been drawn and the pot impolitely consumed sans bread. We shamelessly enjoyed every molten bite so much so that before our second course had even arrived, we were already discussing how we were going to be set for lunch the following day. Despite our fullness, we welcomed the delicious sight of two plates of rotisserie chicken on beds of mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables, garnished with grilled lemon and tiny skillets of gravy. Needless to say, we made room and gorged ourselves on a second course that was as satisfying as the first.

An experience as fulfilling socially as it was nutritionally, the Park Distillery is definitely on my “again” list. With a cocktail list that has a variety of tastes in mind and fondue for days, it should probably be on everyone’s “try” list. If you do go, maybe pair your sharable dishes with some of the smaller bites. Or follow in our footsteps, allow your eyes to be far bigger than your stomachs and stretch your dining experience into tomorrow’s lunch.

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