Top 10 Posts of 2010

Turning the corner on a new year always causes me to look back at the previous one. For this year, I decided to take a look at the stats from this website and take a look at which posts got the most ‘clicks’ in 2010. So, for your reviewing pleasure, here is the Top 10.

1. Destination Review: Casa Zen in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

A short overview of one of my favourite spots on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.

2. Publications

A select list of my publications.

3. Banff’s New FEAST

An introduction to Banff’s new artisan grocer.

4. Ski Touring to Lake O’Hara and McArthur Pass

Turns out a lot of my website hits come from people searching for beta about ski touring, hiking and climbing in the Rockies. Here’s one example.

5. Hiking Clearwater Pass and Lake O’Hara

Trip reports from these destinations.

6. Best Spots for Ice Skating in Banff National Park

A little guide to natural outdoor skating rinks in Banff National Park.

7. Alpine Ski Tour: Peyto Hut and Wapta Icefield

A short description of some of my favourite places to visit on skis (or boots in summertime).

8. Education, Experience, and Development

A little bit more about me…

9. Ski Tour at Bow Summit

One of the most popular ski touring destinations in Banff National Park. Great if you’re just starting out.

10. Who is Yahe-Weha?

The answer to my most popular question. With a Twitter name like yaheweha, I’ve always got people wondering.

Enjoy! And here’s to more great posts and visits in 2011.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.

 

 

Banff’s New FEAST

*Update November 2012* – Please note that FEAST in Banff is now closed.

Hungry for locally sourced and organic ingredients in Banff?

Banff’s new artisan grocer, FEAST, located at 208 Bear Street, is a dream come true for the conscious eater. Previously, finding local and organic ingredients in Banff, Alberta, was about as rare as seeing a wolverine. Now locals and visitors alike can choose from a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, locally handcrafted products and regional cheeses and charcuterie.

FEAST, Banff’s (only) artisan grocer, is located at 208 Bear Street.

I paid an impromptu visit to FEAST today to check it out and meet the mind behind it. Turns out the store was recently opened by Baker Creek Bistro chef and owner, Shelley Robinson, a passionate advocate for locally and regionally sourced foods and the Slow Food Movement. Her goal is to ensure that items at FEAST are as local as possible, though she acknowledges that certain items cannot be found in Alberta. In these cases, she widens the circle slightly in order to acquire them.

Cherry Tomatoes from Broxburn Farms.

Robinson also ensures that items she acquires to sell are of the utmost quality. For her cheeses, she seeks out Canadian suppliers that use only traditional methods. Charcuterie also must be prepared using methods that are sustainable and humane towards animals. In some cases, she can control the quality in preparation herself. Some of the items for sale at FEAST, for instance, she prepares at Baker Creek Bistro and offers as take-home dinners.

Selection of cheeses at FEAST.

Local apricots.

FEAST also offers cheese and charcuterie platters, catering and gift baskets for Christmas and all occasions. In the summertime, they will be offering boxed lunches as well. Many of their items are great grabs for a dinner party or a picnic in the park.

FEAST allows you to pre-order platters and gift baskets.

“FEAST is somewhat out of the norm for a retail shop,” Robinson explained. Her goal is that the store becomes a community hub where you get to know your neighbours. As well, the shop will be a place where people can find information on ‘eating local.’  This is all part of her food philosophy.

If you’re conscious of reducing your impact on the environment and supporting local suppliers, pay a visit to FEAST.

Your stomach – and the Earth – will thank you.

Thanks to FEAST, Banff can acquire locally sourced and organic ingredients year round.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2010.

Discovering Nova Scotia: The Food

Perhaps it was the fact that there’s no such thing as fresh lobster in the Canadian Rockies, but my culinary experiences throughout Nova Scotia were nothing short of incredible. If you’re looking for a guaranteed great meal, try one of these Nova Scotia restaurants. While I’d recommend all of these restaurants to travelers looking for one of Nova Scotia’s unique dining experience, I’ve given my personal ratings (☆), which are outlined at the bottom of this post.

Halifax

Five Fishermen Restaurant and Grill ☆☆☆☆

Website • 1740 Argyle Street

This restaurant provides the quintessential Nova Scotia experience with some of the best seafood in the province. One of the best things about it is the decor, which is mostly marine-themed – wooden beams,  rigs, pulleys, ropes and the side of a ship – but also has a series of stained glass windows. The building has a fantastic heritage. Once used for an art school by none other than Anna Leonowens (of “Anna and the King”), the building was eventually converted to a mortuary, which was used to house bodies from the Titanic and the great Halifax explosion. Naturally, there are many reports of hauntings, but don’t let that deter you from experiencing this downtown Halifax gem.

FID Resto ☆☆☆ – now closed (update 05/2013)

Website • 1569 Dresden Row

This restaurant serves all local and sustainable food. It is a small, cozy restaurant with clean, contemporary decor, a reasonably priced menu and views right into the kitchen. I had the Ran-cher acres goat cheese with jonagold apple, terra beata farm cranberries and walnuts to start and the FID Resto roasted free-range chicken breast with fresh potato gnocchi and white sauce. Both dishes were fantastic. The only downside was that the service was so-so that evening – timely and attentive but not overly friendly.

Wolfville

Tempest Restaurant World Cuisine ☆☆☆

Website • 117 Front Street

Lucy Waverman from The Globe and Mail called The Tempest “one of the best restaurants in the province,” so my expectations were high. The restaurant was absolutely packed on this October evening, so it seems others thought it was, too. Chef Michael Howell is practically a celebrity in Nova Scotia, and for good reason.  He focuses on using quality, regional ingredients and brings a unique flair to this award-winning restaurant. My expectations were met, but not exceeded.

Le Caveau Restaurant (Domain de Grand Pré Winery) ☆☆☆☆☆

courtesy Paul Zizka Photography – http://www.zizka.ca

Website • 11611 Highway 1

This was a personal favourite. Previously this day we had done a wine tour and tasting at the Grand Pré Winery, which now stands on the oldest vineyard in Nova Scotia. The food in this location was some of the best I experienced in Nova Scotia (I nearly fell over at the Seared Arctic Char).  The description off their website was totally accurate: “Chef Jason Lynch and his team focus on regional Nova Scotia product prepared with a global flair, and our experienced service staff makes everyone feel welcome.” The friendly and knowledgeable service made the evening spectacular.

Port Williams

The Port Pub: A Gastropub ☆☆☆☆

Website • 980 Terry’s Creek Road

For a great lunch or dinner, tracking down The Port Pub in Port Williams is well worth your time. They had great food and handcrafted brews, but what I loved the most about this pub was the story behind it. With a growing community and nowhere for friends to gather and socialize, Port Williams needed something. Thus, The Port Pub was built by a group of friends and is owned by community shareholders. Their goal is to “provide employment, minimize ‘food kilometers’” by using food sourced from regional providers where possible.

Lunenburg

The Salt Shaker Deli ☆☆☆

Website • 124 Montague Street

Exterior of Fleur de Sel. Courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/pvsbond/

I had already fallen in love with all of Lunenburg, so it wasn’t hard to fall in love with The Salt Shaker Deli. It is a small deli with a quaint and cozy decor. They serve mostly comfort foods – “nibbles,” soups, salads, sandwiches – as well as a long list of gourmet pizzas, which were perfect for the rainy, dreary day I had in  this waterfront town. You won’t be disappointed!

Fleur de Sel ☆☆☆☆☆

Website • 53 Montague Street

Time for the cream of the crop. This Four Diamond restaurant offers traditional French cuisine and incredible attention to detail every step of the way. Converted from a heritage home, this restaurant offers an intimate, romantic atmosphere. The service was impeccable and the food absolutely worthy of the plethora of awards this restaurant has received over the years. As it was with most Nova Scotia restaurants I visited, Fleur de Sel highlights local ingredients. Well worth the price.

———-

☆ Yum. And that’s all.

☆☆ Food and Service. Worth the price but not necessarily a second visit.

☆☆☆ Really great. Worth stopping by and experiencing.

☆☆☆☆ Fantastic in food, atmosphere and philosophy.

☆☆☆☆☆ Superb. Worthy of the awards they’ve already received. Take me back there anytime.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2010.

Destination Review: Casa Zen in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

7 am – beach time. 9 am – batido (or smoothie) time. 9:30 am – yoga en plain air. 11 am onwards – anything you like.

Casa Zen

A day at Casa Zen, in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, is what you want to make of it. But, the beachside setting, the food, and the remoteness is sure to provide a relaxing and rejuvenating environment after you’ve ditched your surfboard at the end of a long day on the waves. Not a surfer? At Casa Zen you can enjoy an open-air massage, read in a hammock on the upper patio, have a light thai-inspired meal or simply lie on the beach under the shade of swaying palms.

The small, coastal village of Santa Teresa sits in a more remote area of the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean. This village is growing slowly, but a lack of paved roads has deterred tourists despite its incredible potential as an ocean-side oasis. In June of 2009, I had the chance to visit this area of Costa Rica, and did not find the journey to be as arduous as described. But, as there are fewer people who travel to this destination, what results is a quieter community and a beach that is nearly deserted at times.

Casa Zen was recommended by my guidebook, so I chose to spend 4 nights there at the end of my trip. The owner of Casa Zen, Kelly Lange, opened the guesthouse in December of 2004. Originally from Kansas City, Lange used to visit her father, who was living in Costa Rica, and at one time visited – and fell in love with – Santa Teresa. She encouraged him to invest in some property in this small beach-side village, and the rest is history. Casa Zen features seven private rooms or apartments and two dorm rooms, The Rancho, which is an octagonal-shaped communal sitting and eating area, a Thai restaurant serving breakfast lunch and dinner, a small outdoor spa area, and an upper patio where hammocks hang beckoning a nap or reading session and are otherwise removed for morning yoga classes (catered to any level of experience).

Lange’s philosophy for Casa Zen is “fair pricing” in order to encourage wellness and holistic healing for everyone. “Enough is enough,” she said to me, reflecting on how it is only necessary to charge so much to her guests. A wandering backpacker can pay just $12 for a dorm bed, while private rooms start at just $24, for instance. The shared bathrooms are clean and accessible, and an outdoor camper’s kitchen allows travellers on a budget to cook meals for themselves.

Thai-Inspired Decor of Casa Zen

Casa Zen is not just for the backpacker, however. Young couples, families, or any traveller with a smaller budget can enjoy the services at Casa Zen, without needing to skimp out on quality. The environment at Casa Zen is very clean, secure, and at the hands of a team who clearly care about their establishment. Two internet stations allow you to stay connected with family at home, or to make plans for your next destination. The food is exceptional and well-priced, with menu options including fresh fruit smoothies, egg dishes, sandwiches, fresh guacamole and crisps, Vietnamese Bun, green curry, and sweet banana crepes to finish.

At night, when the sun has set, paper lanterns of various colours provide splashes of colour and light throughout Casa Zen, rendering a very funky and inviting atmosphere in which to sit and converse with other travellers.

Playa Santa Teresa

What’s in the future for Casa Zen? Lange has a dream of creating packaged yoga retreats and workshops, which would include healthy meals and a holistic approach to self-discovery and healing. Future plans also include extending the yoga studio to make it larger.

When I asked Lange what the most meaningful feedback on Casa Zen was for her, she mentioned without hesitation her “guestbook,” and the fact that some of her guests returned year after year and have since become friends. Perusing her guestbook before I signed my name, I was inspired by the entries of other travellers, who said that their stay at Casa Zen helped them to find themselves again.

No doubt Casa Zen can help you find yourself again, or give you the space to think and rejuvenate. And the best part is you can pamper yourself at Casa Zen, and treat yourself like royalty without spending the royal fees.

For more information, please see www.zencostarica.com

FAST FACTS

Getting There: From San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, either rent a car and drive, taking the ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera along the way, or take a private shuttle through Montezuma Expeditions.

mal-pais-santa-teresa-map

Accommodations: Dorm $12, Private Rooms $24+

Massage: ½ Hour $30, 1 Hour $55, 1.5 Hours $80

Yoga: $7 per class, or $25 for 5 classes

Food Items: $1.50 – $10

Langauges Spoken: English and Spanish

Internet: Available (two stations)

All photos by Meghan J. Ward.

Map from: http://www.paradisecellular.com/images/mal-pais-santa-teresa-map.jpg.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2009.