Exploring the Trails (and Food) of the Canadian Rockies

Lake Louise, Alberta

When I look at the mountains in the Canadian Rockies, a part of me feels like I’m 19 again and I can feel the excitment and promise of my whole life ahead of me bubbling below the surface. Then I feel the tug of a small hand in mine, and I’m brought back to earth. I’m no longer a carefree university student looking for her next adventure. I’m a mother of two young ponytails who need to reach the end of the hiking trail before the effects of the morning snack have worn off or another bathroom break calls.

I have to tell you that it sure was great to tour the Rockies with my family this summer. We got to explore the spectacularly beautiful area of Banff, Emerald Lake and Lake Louise, where I worked for two summers during university. We also got to spend time with my husband’s family in Edmonton.

Me with the ponytails in Banff.

Carefree isn’t the word to describe this family trip, but did it pull on my heartstrings to see the look of excitment on the girls’ faces as they discovered the magic of mountains for the first time.

The girls riding up the Sulphur Mountain gondola in Banff. Can you say excited?

We managed to complete several 5 km hikes, which was an accomplishment with a four-year old, as well as canoe around a couple of different lakes.

This helped to offset all the calories from the wonderful meals that we enjoyed–including an amazing Bistecca alla Florentina at the Chateau Lake Louise. Given that Alberta is known for its beef, this seemed like the perfect meal to have in one of my absolutely favourite places. The meal didn’t disappoint, and while we devoured the steak before I could get a picture, I’ve decided to share my version of this meal as I have been making it since we first tried it on our honeymoon in Florence.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Tuscan Porterhouse)

Serves 2

  • 1 20 oz (1.5 lb) porterhouse/t-bone steak
  • 2 tbsps good quality olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Shavings of parmesan cheese
  • Lemon cut in half.

Mix olive oil and herbs in small bowl. Set aside.

Salt and pepper both sides of steak at room temperature. Place steak on grill and cook for 10 or so minutes per side, for medium rare (longer if you prefer your steak well done). Add lemon halfs to grill at same time as the steak. Remove steak and lemon from grill when steak is done. Drizzle olive oil and herb mixture over steak and let it rest for five minutes on a plate.

Serve steak on a platter with roasted asparagus, fennel, grape tomatoes and potatoes. Sprinkle parmesan cheese shavings over all items on the platter. Squeeze a bit of lemon on the meat and vegetables before eating.

  • NOTES:
    In Florence this dish is made with Chianina beef. They are the huge white oxen raised in the Val di Chiana, near Arezzo. This meat is noted for being both tender and highly flavorful.
  • For the fennel: cut it in half lengthwise, and cut out the core from both halves. Then cut into 1/4″ thick pieces lengthwise. I roasted the fennel, asparagus and grape tomatoes in a 425° oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until carmelized.
  • For a one inch steak: Rare, 10-12 mins; Medium Rare, 12-16 mins; Medium, 16-18 mins
  • It is fun for two people to share one of these platters (as long as you feel comfortable cutting every last piece of meat from the bone in front of your partner) and I’ve made this for company as well — each couple gets their own platter.

I know this won’t be our last family trip to the Rockies. I think the girls were as smitten by mountains as I was all those years ago. Lake Louise, we’ll be back!