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New restaurant uses mountain foliage for innovative delicacies

CANMORE – Aerated caramelized yeast and wildgrass seasoning are among the list of ingredients found on the brand new menu at the Sensory in Canmore .
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Sensory
Tracy Little, head chef at the Sensory, is utilizing the nature surrounding us here in Canmore to create unique meals.
CANMORE – Aerated caramelized yeast and wildgrass seasoning are among the list of ingredients found on the brand new menu at the Sensory in Canmore.  Those two specific ingredients are from an appetizer of rabbit tortelli, which also comes with “heirloom carrots; shaved, purée and tops,” and though it sounds weird, head chef Tracy Little said it’s pretty dang good – plus, some of the ingredients are freshly picked.  On a Sunday night in June, the main floor of the restaurant was buzzing with newcomers starting to trickle into the upstairs dining area. Sitting across from each other in a quieter portion upstairs, decorated simply but with an air of mountain elegance, Little said things in the new restaurant have been going well.  “I think what we have is a different concept,” she said after making a joke that she’s a tad awkward (she was lovely for the record). 

“I take the crew, we go foraging every other day … and try to get as much goods as we can, so what we cook is super seasonal.” 

Currently on the menu, for example, is the elderflower-infused pork tomahawk, which the menu describes as “30 oz, sous vide and then cast-iron seared. With smoked pork hock reduction.”  Elderflower season is typically from May to mid June and the kitchen team at the Sensory go to pick the flowers themselves. Little said the seasonal foods alongside the foraging allow the kitchen a sense of freedom in terms of creativity.  “It’s good because being able to come up with different stuff all the time, the cooks are able to be working on their skills more and more,” she said.   One of the creative ideas the Sensory is offering to its customers is the Trust Me Menu and it requires you do just that – trust them.   “We started doing the Trust Me Menu and now that seems to be the only thing we sell, which is really cool. I give people three courses for 49 bucks and they just don’t know what it is until they get it,” she said.  For Little, what they do is special because they’re utilizing what there is to offer right outside their doors. 

“I think that what we’re doing is a whole other exotic cuisine because it comes from our backyard,” she said. “So we get to introduce people to stuff that they walk by everyday, but have maybe never thought about eating before. I guess it’s kind of weird to think about nibbling on a tree, but we do it.” 

The Sensory also has what it calls the WIT Bar, a bar and cocktail lounge on the first floor of the restaurant. The bar has a separate menu, offering more shareable plates as well as food you’d find on a pub menu, but with a Sensory twist. Like the Sandwich of Champignons for example, which has “frittered portobello, balsamic pickled purple onion, pesto, lettuce, greenhouse tomato, ciabatta, [and] brie.” There’s also an order called Shrimply the Best, which is shrimp tacos, and obviously brilliantly punny.  Aside from it’s humorously witty names, the WIT bar also boasts of an award-winning mixologist from Sweden, Kristin Winblad, who Little said also forages for her beverages. 

“She kind of coincides with what I do a little bit because she’ll forage moss and make bitters out of it, stuff like that too, so she’s kind of raising the bar,” she said. 

The WIT bar has 20 different wines alongside a machine that offers diners the option to try wines that might be outside their comfort zone.  “We have this really cool machine, as you take wine out of it, it replaces the wine with argon, so that it doesn’t go bad and you can have little bits or you can have a lot,” explained Little.  While things at the restaurant are flourishing, Little said the customers have been predominantly from outside of Canmore.  “The biggest challenge has been getting the locals in, definitely,” she said, adding she hopes Canmorites start changing their minds and come in to dine.  A good time to do so, in fact, would be Tuesday (June 25), when Little is organizing a dinner in honour of Anthony Bourdain.  “We will donate a portion of proceeds to the Owl Pod, a non-profit mental health organization in the Bow Valley,” she said.  For more information on the Sensory, or the dinner on June 25, visit their website at www.thesensory.ca.