It’s pretty neat that the three of us who dine together once a month all have our birthday’s within 2 weeks of each other. We decided to go somewhere ‘fancy’ for our joint birthday dinner and chose Bow Valley Ranche way down south in Fish Creek Park.
None of us had been here before, and because it’s winter in Canada, it was pitch black by the time we arrived. It was truly hard to find this place! We drove past the first beige sign on the right side of Bow Bottom Trail because we were following the GPS navigation. Don’t do that! If you follow Garmin’s directions it takes you further south into the boonies. It was, however, nice to see the deer browsing the fields in the glimmer of our headlights. We did a u-turn in the darkness and headed back to the beige sign (the text that most stands out on the sign is for Annie’s bakery). So, we took that side road west until we came to a parking lot. There was another beige sign for Bow Valley Ranche/Annie’s but no real directions on where to go. We zig-zagged our way through the empty parking lot until we saw the large house with blue Christmas lights on it. With no signage, we figured out the only way to get there was by taking a non-descript road on the south side of the parking lot. This road took us to another parking lot, specifically for the restaurant. Does this sound confusing? That’s because it was!
Don’t wear nice high heel shoes to this place in the winter. You have to hike through the snowy/icy parking lot and down a long pathway to the restaurant. It’s truly a beautiful setting, but you need to be prepared for what it is. The pathway to the house was lit by real gas lamp posts. The wooden pathway leading directly to the house was a warm welcome to the historic house. Watch yourself on the front door – it’s hard to open and quite narrow. Wearing winter jackets and hauling in our birthday presents it was a challenge to maneuver through the narrow doorway.
We were greeted once inside the dining area. There are multiple rooms, including a smaller dining area, a sitting area with couches, the kitchen and the main dining area and bar. I used to be a DJ and have a sensitive nose… the odour of stale booze was prevalent around the bar area, but I seemed to be the only one to notice it.
The dining room is beautiful, warm, and welcoming. A real fireplace sits at one end of the large room and there are windows everywhere. The room has a very country feel to it, and was beautifully decorated for the holidays (being early December). It’s too bad it was dark out, because I’m sure the view in the day time is gorgeous. I’d love to come here for brunch on the patio in the spring!
We had our choice of tables, choosing one further away from the other guests. Again – I’m not sure why hosts group people together when there are lots of empty tables. The host and our server were friendly and knowledgable, but service was surprisingly slow throughout the evening. We were served a yummy amuse-bouche that reminded me of of herb and garlic boursin cheese. Mmmmm…
Two of us ordered a glass of wine. The server brought the bottle to our table and free poured it in front of us. This was a nice touch. We each ordered appies to start. The albacore tuna crudo was really quite good. It was served with yuzu-compressed fennel, jalapeño salsa, puffed quinoa, wasabi oil, and yuzu vinaigrette. The puffed quinoa added a nice subtle crunch which pulled the dish together nicely.
I’d never had bone marrow before. The herbed panko bone marrow was served with watercress parsley salad, onion jam and cranberry mustard. It was good, but very rich and fatty tasting. I could never eat as much as was presented in the dish. One bite to try was plenty for me.
I ordered the Bouvry Farm elk carpaccio. I’d never had carpaccio before, so it was another new experience! I thought the crispy fried potato shoestrings were awesome – they added the necessary crunch. The fresh sprouts were a nice touch and lightened up the dish. Out of the three appies, I think the tuna was the best.
For dinner we each ordered something quite different as well. The Oceanwise sturgeon was perfectly cooked. My friend enjoyed the dish a lot. This was the simplest dish of the evening.
The Rougie duck breast was served with confit duck potato croquet which was kind of bland tasting, parsnip puree, king oyster mushrooms, carrot noodles and poussin jus. Although the plate was rather busy, the duck was perfectly cooked and there was a lot of it.
I ordered the deconstructed venison wellington. The plate was full of interesting things: a ring of puff pastry, mushroom duxelle (chopped up mushrooms, which were actually quite awesome), bacon, brussel sprouts, red cabbage soubise, roasted Jerusalem artichokes, and cranberry demi. I found the red cabbage soubise confusing – it was paste-like, and didn’t add anything to the plate. The Jerusalem artichokes were odd as well. Since I didn’t remember what the menu said, I first thought they were roasted potatoes, but the texture was all wrong and they were sweet… I think I would have preferred potatoes. The venison was perfectly cooked and the cranberry demi added a nice seasonal touch to the dish. However, I felt the dish was trying too hard… minus the red cabbage soubise and the Jerusalem artichokes, the dish was awesome. I could have eaten a bowl of the mushroom duxelle LOL.
The chef at Bow Valley Ranche really knows how to cook meat and fish well. We were all impressed with our proteins.
We were pretty full after dinner but it doesn’t take much convincing for me to imbibe in dessert. We ordered the cappuccino souffle to share. The souffle was light and fluffy, but the best part of the dish was the chocolate sauce on the side. I wanted to scrape the bowl clean, but I was too full…
I would like to try Bow Valley Ranche again, in the summer, in the daylight. The food was really quite good, although I felt that the whole place was trying a bit too hard to be fancy. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place where I’ve had to Google so many of the things on our plates to figure out what they were. I would recommend this restaurant for a special occasion and it would be a great location to have a small wedding.