Bites: The Vermillion Room now serving at Fairmont Banff Springs, Asparagus Festival back on at Edgar Farms

Vermillion Room brings taste of France to Fairmont Banff Springs

Over its storied history, the Fairmont Banff Springs has featured a few restaurants in the space on the main floor overlooking the Bow River valley. But its latest iteration is bringing traditional French flavours to the Rocky Mountains.

The Vermillion Room is now open, serving up cocktails and classic bistro fare to hotel guests and those day-tripping to the famed castle-like spot.

The space most recently home to the Bow Valley Grille has been completely transformed into a brasserie, complete with tile floors, deep blue velvet chairs and a long bar with brass fixtures. (Calgary’s Frank Architecture was behind the massive remodel.)

Although the flavours and feel of France echo through the space and on the menu, the food still also reflects the Banff Springs’ location amid the jagged Rockies, at the edge of Canada’s foothills and prairies. So, the bourguignon is bison, whole roasted chicken is from a local Hutterite colony, and the charcuterie is made on site. (For more great charcuterie, be sure to stop by Grapes in the hotel.)

The Vermillion Room — open as of last week — serves breakfast, lunch and dinner (as well as cocktails and wine, naturellement), along with a weekend brunch. Judging from the menu, a stop in for a drink or two, along with some of the tartare or a plate of seafood will be good at any hour. Be sure to order a plate of the crisp Pomme Frites (which, frankly, are also quite good when dipped into the rich sauce of the Bison Bourguignon).

The menu also features daily specials for lunch and dinner, including the famed chicken stew Coq au Vin and Coquille St. Jacques, a mix of seafood and mushrooms in a cream sauce with mashed potato and a cheese bread crumb gratin.

If a burger is more your style, take note: Vermillion offers two versions, both of which feature a 45-day aged Angus beef patty — one topped with bacon, garlic aioli and onion rings, the other with four-year aged cheddar.

All hail asaparagus

Every year, there are certain events to look forward to. Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Spring Equinox, the arrival of fresh asparagus at farmers’ markets.

Think some of these are more important than others? Then you haven’t eaten local asparagus.

To celebrate the first crop of those emerald green spears, Edgar Farms – Alberta’s largest asparagus farm – is bringing back their annual Asparagus Festival.

The oft-anticipated event has been on hiatus for the last three years following a series of hailstorms that ravaged the 50 acres of fields near Innisfail, but is back for 2018. In the aftermath of the 2014 hail damage, the Edgar family, which have farmed asparagus for six generations, took tough steps to preserve future crops, cancelling the festival that year and reducing the picking in the years that followed.

This spring, three Sundays have been dedicated to the festival’s triumphant return — May 27, June 3 and June 10.

Along with narrated wagon tours of the asparagus fields, visitors will have a chance to try fresh spears or dishes whipped up by Your Private Chef’s Matt Burton (who is rumoured to be making, among other things, tempura asparagus with aioli). A family event, kids will have a chance to explore a real farm with animals and wind their way through a hay bale maze.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Edgar Farms on Township Road 352, just southwest of Innisfail.

Can’t make it to the festival? Watch for Edgar Farms asparagus in local farmers’ markets and snap it up while you can. The season won’t last forever.

Gwendolyn Richards is a Calgary-based food writer and the author of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers. She regularly contributes to Avenue Magazine and Food Network Canada. She shares her cooking and eating adventures – and occasionally some of her shoes – on Twitter and Instagram as @gwendolynmr.