If your perfect day involves sitting down for a nice meal with a glass of wine in hand, staring out at the mountains from the inside of a cozy log cabin, look no further than Sage Bistro and Wine Lounge in Canmore, Alberta. Less than an hour away from Calgary, it is the perfect getaway, even if you are only escaping the city for a day or two, or even a few hours.
Nestled into the cusp of the Canadian Rockies, Sage is your picturesque mountain restaurant. The log cabin in which it is situated was originally built in British Columbia, before being transported to Alberta and reconstructed in 1982. According to Todd Kunst, the current chef and co-owner of Sage, the business went through several owners before falling into the hands of his family in 1989. Kunst grew up in the restaurant before taking over in 2001, overhauling the menu and eventually changing the concept to the current Sage Bistro in 2003. In 2010, they also added a wine lounge on the second level, where you can enjoy tapas-style cuisine while clinking stemware.
Kunst describes the menu as fairly simple: “[We’re] a French accent bistro keeping things as local as possible.”
In Canmore, this is much easier said than done — especially in the dead of winter — but Sage does its best to source local products such as Valbella meats and fresh seafood that comes in from the West Coast. Come summertime, they are able to get hyper-local, harvesting fresh produce grown by students at the Canmore High School, just down the street. It is an ideal partnership, as the students learn where their food comes from, while the restaurant gets to use vegetables that were picked mere hours before service.
One of the most popular charcuterie options here is Kunst’s smoked steelhead trout, which is cured with salt and sugar for two days before it is cold smoked with maplewood for five hours. It’s also served in a number of different dishes, the pairing with crispy potato rösti on the dinner menu, finished off with chive crème fraîche and fried capers.
Don't leave Sage without tasting the rosemary braised lamb shank, which is popular with the locals and out-of-towners alike. Kunst tried to take it off the menu last summer, opting for something a bit lighter during the warmer months, but the change did not last long after a patron revolt.
The local tomato salad with White Gold fior di latte cheese and basil pesto is a simple but vibrant way to celebrate the coming of spring; although in these parts, you can never be sure if the snowfall has truly ceased for the season. Then there’s the cider-brined Broek Pork Acres ribs with a zippy carrot daikon slaw to balance out the rich glaze on the racks.
Recently, Sage Bistro participated in Canmore Uncorked, Canmore’s inaugural food and wine festival. A first for the town, it was a great opportunity for independent restaurateurs to show a lot of first-time travellers to the town what they were all about. In Kunst’s view, the event was a way to connect restaurants and patrons alike, which is often difficult to achieve in a seasonal town like Canmore, blended with both locals and tourists.
It’s pretty much a fact that if you’re on a little mountain getaway, calories don’t exist, or at least don’t need to be counted, so a bite of flourless chocolate cake is the only way to go for any chocoholic. Just a few bites of this cake, topped with Kahlua ganache and mango, berry compote, is enough to satisfy your cravings for chocolate without pushing things over the edge. On the lighter side, the Saskatoon berry crepes does not disappoint, and neither does the lemon curd they are slathered with.
Since Canadian springs and summers are synonymous with campfire, don’t miss the wine lounge on the second floor at Sage. Stick with the outdoorsy theme and try the s’mores, complete with homemade, smoked marshmallows.
At the end of the day, Kunst says that the number one priority of any good restaurant is simply feeding people. Whether you are a local, or just visiting Canmore for the weekend, you are sure to leave Sage Bistro and Wine Lounge with a full – and happy – stomach.