BANFF – Banff National Park’s month-long culinary celebration is returning this year from Nov. 1-28.
Organized by Banff and Lake Louise Tourism (BLLT), the Taste for Adventure food festival will see talented chefs and award-winning restaurants cooking up exclusive menus, unique dishes and irresistible specials that showcase ingredients unique to Alberta and British Columbia.
BLLT officials say restaurants have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and this event hopes to help drive incremental business to restaurants and the park during these challenging times and quieter months.
“It’s a month-long celebration of food and drink and the intent is to showcase our various restaurants in the destination, but also our taste of place,” said David Matys, BLLT’s director of events and animation.
“We’re really excited to have it back and our restaurants have really embraced the concept.”
This year, 19 restaurants are participating in Taste for Adventure, all offering unique fixed price menus. From intimate dinners to late-night gatherings, family brunches, lunches and more, the celebration offers something for every palate.
Food aficionados can enjoy a three-course table d-hôte menu at Eden, Banff’s only AAA/CAA 5-Diamond award restaurant, sip a cocktail while enjoying live entertainment at the Radiant or sample an award-winning dish at Juniper Hotel Bistro.
On top of established favourites, Taste for Adventure also offers up new restaurants – Three Bears Brewery and Restaurant, Banff’s second brewery; Shoku Izakaya, Banff’s first Japanese izakaya; and Hello Sunshine, a new retro sushi, Japanese BBQ and karaoke spot.
Although the region was economically hard hit from the loss of visitation, particularly bigger-spending international tourists during the pandemic, Matys said the number of new restaurants in the last year-and-a-half proves Banff and Lake Louise’s hospitality industry is resilient.
Matys said all restaurants taking part in the Taste for Adventure have special food offers.
“They are showcasing their individual restaurant styles,” said Matys.
“But we’re also looking to showcase regional ingredients and our regional drinks from B.C. and Alberta on the menus of our various restaurants.”
With the launch of BLLT’s food tourism strategy in 2018, restaurants are serving up regionally-inspired dishes featuring foods such as bison and elk, complemented by a wide selection of regional craft beers, small batch distilled spirits and wines from across Alberta and B.C.
Matys said the basis for Banff and Lake Louise’s food tourism strategy is that people who travel for food are looking to experience “something unique to that place.”
“While we don’t grow anything or harvest anything in the destination directly, we’re in a unique position here in Banff with Alberta and B.C., so the range of food products we can feature as part of our taste of place is actually quite incredible,” he said.
“From what B.C. has to offer in terms of the ocean and fruit lands and wineries in between, to Alberta’s burgeoning craft beer scene, burgeoning distillery scene, and obviously Alberta beef – premier product in the world relative to beef.”
Matys said the vast majority of restaurants in Banff and Lake Louise have bought into the food tourism strategy.
“Restaurants and chefs are aligned with what we’re trying to accomplish in terms of helping establish our destination as a bucket list where-to-eat destination, which was never part of our DNA before,” he said.
“Prior to this strategy, food was fuel where you come eat so you can so skiing or hiking and all the things you can do here. Now there’s a shift and we’re telling a story around food rather than just filling a functional need to get people fed.”
With so many enticing offers, Matys said BLLT hopes visitors will plan ahead and stay a few days, adding the food festival is designed to attract the regional visitors during what is typically one of the quieter, or shoulder season months.
“We’re hoping that the regional audience will come for the weekend and try multiple restaurants over that period of time, or come out several times over the course of the month,” he said.
The Taste for Adventure food celebration overlaps with the 46th annual Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival, which this year is a combination of virtual and in-person events after a year’s hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From Nov. 1-7, the Jenny Belzberg theatre will screen adventure films, including Radical Reels and a live interview with accomplished alpinist and climber Brette Harrington.
Also in November, BLLT will launch the second annual In Search of Christmas Spirit, an outdoor lighting experience, on Nov. 24 and work in partnership with the hosts of the Banff Christmas Market at Warner Stables Nov. 19-21 and Nov. 26-28.
Matys said BLLT is also working on a modified plan for the return of the annual Santa Clause parade, which was called off last year due to COVID-19.
“We're hoping we can executive that on Nov. 20, but with the new health restrictions, we have to figure out how to navigate that event,” he said.
“Taste for Adventure actually overlaps with a few other events in November to it’s a great month to come and visit.”
Lastly, Taste for Adventure diners can enter an online draw to win one of four weekly prizes, including accommodation package, lift tickets and rental equipment from local ski resorts, a helicopter tour or a dog sledding experience.
“We’ve tried to put together a fun adventure package for each week,” Matys said.