Friday, November 29, 2013

Fiddle River Restaurant – Jasper Alberta

Our first night in Jasper…and it was time for dinner.  I’d done some research and I’d decided that we’d have an expensive dinner on the first night in town and then, on the second night, we’d find somewhere much more reasonably priced.

So…as I said, this was the first night!  Here we are at Fiddle River Seafood Company.  As per Trip Advisor just prior to our trip, this restaurant scored 125 Excellent or Very Good Reviews vs. only 5 Poor or Terrible.  Since my normal risk limit is a 10:1 ratio and these odds were far better, at more than 20:1, I felt pretty confident when we entered the restaurant!

We were seated right next to the window facing out over Connaught Street and the rail yards…with the mist covered mountains barely visible through the rain…

The interior of the Fiddle River Restaurant is warm…woodsy and simple.  It’s located on the 2nd floor and with windows on 2 sides of the dining area there would normally be ample light to brighten up the room.

When we were seated, this was our view.  It was raining and visibility was limited.  We had a nice view, (if you are a railroad buff), of the old Canadian National Mountain Type Class U-1-A steam locomotive on permanent static display as well as one of the 6 VIA Rail passenger trains that stop or originate in Jasper each week.  In clear weather we would have also had a good view of the Colin Mountain range from our table by the window. 

Laurie started out with a glass of the featured red wine for the day, 6 oz. for $9.00.  I asked our waitress for a mild beer and she recommended a Stiegl lager. ($8.90) Stiegl is brewed near Salzburg Austria and it is one of the most common brands of beer in that country.  Stiegl was founded in 1492, so they must be doing something right! We were both happy with our pre-dinner libations…
I’m sure that it’s no coincidence that Fiddle River serves Austrian beer…as the owner, John Riedler, is an Austrian trained chef.

For an appetizer, we decided to share something we’ve never had before.  This is the Moroccan Dates appetizer. ($14.00) It consisted of baked fresh organic dates stuffed with feta cheese, served with Moroccan spiced tiger prawns on a cumin scented sun-dried fruit cous cous cake and accompanied by fresh chive aioli.  This was both different and excellent!  Our flavor buds were popping, that’s for sure!
Two other appetizers caught my attention… There was the Crispy Lamb Strudel, ($14.00), which consisted of curried lamb, fresh mint, tomato chili chutney and sweet potatoes wrapped in phyllo pastry with a balsamic reduction and accompanied by a cucumber and dill yogurt.  The other appetizer I noticed was the Earl Grey Smoked Candied Salmon. ($14.00) This offering included Corey’s famous maple and brown sugar cured Atlantic salmon with a hickory potato cake, accompanied by a lemon and horseradish whipped cream. 

We rarely cook fish at home, preferring to order it at restaurants and we do like simple but flavorful fish dishes.  Laurie ordered “Just for the Halibut”. ($30.00) Her herbed panko crumbed halibut fillet was topped with a cilantro pesto drizzle and it was accompanied by horseradish and grated parmesan cheese.  Her sides were French organic lentil coconut rice and 4 fresh seasonal vegetables.  She really enjoyed her entrée!  Excellent!
One fish offering on the menu that I’d never seen before was the Phyllo Arctic Char. ($32.00) This consisted of oven baked Arctic char, with spinach and goat cheese wrapped in phyllo pastry and accompanied by a cucumber, dill and fresh chive raiti as well as the standard rice and grilled seasonal vegetables… (Raiti is Indian…from India…word for a variety of sauces)
FYI… Commercial Arctic char typically weigh between 2 and 10 pounds and it is a member of the salmon family.  The flesh is fine flaked and medium firm.  The color is between light pink and deep red, and the taste is like something between trout and salmon.

OK…I had Bison at Lake Louise, so I decided to try a different type of meat this time.  I ordered the Braised Elk Stroganoff. ($28.00) This was slowly braised elk with caramelized onions, smoked paprika and a cognac demi-glace. It was finished with dill pickles and chive sour cream and it was accompanied by roasted vegetables and the potato of the day.  I decided that slowly cooked elk is a winner!  This was a very good meal…
Another entrée of interest was the Drunken Chorizo and Wild Boar Goulash. ($32.00) This dish includes braised wild boar with merlot chorizo sausage and caramelized caraway onions with a sage and cranberry tea towel dumpling.

I ordered coffee while we waited for our shared dessert.  The rain had stopped and the VIA Rail train had departed…to be replaced by a hind…a wandering female elk that was just moving on down the road.

For dessert, Laurie and I shared a berry crumble with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. ($9.25) It was very good…but it would have been even better had it been a bit warmer.
The food at Fiddle River was imaginative and very, very good.  This is one of those instances where we paid quite a bit for the meal and felt like we got our monies worth!  Our only complaint was that after a promising start, our waitress became a bit moody, forgetful and inefficient for some reason.  It was too bad as I was thinking 4 ½ to 5 stars on my rating scale.  Still, we would recommend this restaurant if you’re ready to splurge!
Fiddle River Seafood Company is located on the 2nd floor at 620 Connaught Drive in Jasper Alberta.  Phone: (780) 852- 3032.  To learn more about this restaurant, go to
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Greetings!

From our family to yours…

We’re wishing that everyone has a terrific and joyful Thanksgiving! 

Laurie and I had a flock of 14 turkey come through our yard today… We believe that they were seeking refuge during this turkey centric holiday!

They are hiding out in the woods next to our house… Even they have something to be thankful for!  There is plenty of food for them too as we are surrounded with Oak and Hickory trees and the ground is littered with acorns and nuts…
We are certainly thankful for all of our family and friends…as well for as our good fortune in having been born in such a great and bountiful country!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave, Laurie and J.D.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jasper Alberta and Vicinity…

Anyone who has followed this blog site knows that I am the restless type.  I almost always get out and explore the area where we stop for the night as long as there is daylight to see by…  With the scenery and the potential to view a bit of wildlife, Jasper Alberta was certainly no exception to this rule!

We were not even out of the Jasper town limits on Pyramid Lake Road when we spotted this Mule Deer Buck along the road.  His antlers were still in velvet.  After a bit, he finally looked up so Laurie could take this photo.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Mule Deer, their most obvious differences from a White-Tailed Deer are the size of the Mule Deer’s ears, the color of their tails, and the configuration of their antlers.  Mule Deer are usually larger as well.  Mule Deer's tails are black-tipped.  A Mule Deer’s antlers are bifurcated, i.e., they "fork" as they grow, rather than branching from a single main beam, as is the case with Whitetails.  For more information, go to

The road north from Jasper to Pyramid Lake and the Pyramid Lake Resort isn’t very long but it provides many scenic vistas as well as a chance to view some wildlife.  The Pyramid Lake Resort is owned by Mountain Park Lodges which has 5 properties in the Jasper area.  To learn about this resort and others in the group, just go to 

Laurie loves Loons!  They bring back memories of her childhood and loons on the lake her family used to vacation at in northern Wisconsin.  Much to our delight, mama and papa loon were swimming around the dock at the Pyramid Lake Resort, apparently teaching their 2 offspring how to dive and hunt for fish.  These are Great Northern or Common Loons.  In Eurasia they are known as Great Northern Divers…

These loons were hard to photograph in the water… The babies are the ones with the brown feathers on their backs.  The striped pattern of the adults had yet to develop.  The neatest sight of all was watching the birds swimming underwater in pursuit of small fish!  Unfortunately, it was impossible to capture with our camera.
Loons are excellent swimmers.  They use their feet to propel themselves above and under water while their wings provide assistance.  Because their feet are so far back on their bodies, loons are poorly adapted to moving on land.  They usually avoid going onto land, except when nesting.  Only one species of loon can take off from land…the rest require water for takeoff!  The larger species have some difficulty taking off, even from a lake, and they need to swim into the wind to pick up enough lift to become airborne.  For more information regarding loons, you can go to  To see a great photo of a Common Loon swimming along with her baby on her back, just go to

This is the view across Pyramid Lake in Jasper National Park on a cloudy day… The lake is kidney-shaped and it lies at the foot of Pyramid Mountain, a natural landmark that overlooks the town of Jasper.  The lake is small, only roughly ½ of a square mile but it is very pretty. 
To see a photo of the lake and mountain on a sunny day, just go to  FYI, Pyramid Mountain rises to 9,075 feet above sea level and about 2,500 feet above the lake. You are well over a mile high while visiting this area near the base of the mountain.

We really liked this cloudy drizzly day photo of a road branching off Pyramid Lake Road near Jasper…

This is a photo from the other side of Pyramid Lake showing the Pyramid Lake Resort with its 62 guest rooms… This would be a very laid back place to stay.  

This is a photo of another small lake that we saw on our drive along Pyramid Lake Road…

This is a view of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.  It sits on the shore of yet another small lake, Lac Beauvert.  This lake and 5 others border the Athabasca River on the south east side of the town of Jasper.  The area around 2 of the larger lakes, Lake Annette and Lake Edith, is a park with trails and picnic facilities.

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge was first been established in 1915 as a "Tent City," in association with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, but by the 1920s the property was under the management of Canadian National Hotels. Eight bungalows were constructed in 1921, and work began on additional cabins and a main lodge building two years later.  The main building, reputed to be the largest single-level log structure in the world, was destroyed by fire in 1952. 
The current lodge appears small as compared to other Fairmont properties in the Canadian Rockies, but with cabins and other outbuildings, it offers 446 rooms!  It is Jasper's only year-round full-service resort.  To learn more, go to

The next morning as we prepared for a day long adventure to Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, we opted for a high carb ‘sweet’ breakfast at Bear’s Paw Bakery in the town of Jasper.  It was on my list of possible places to grab a bite to eat and on Trip Advisor it’s currently rated as the #3 place to eat in Jasper.  Check it out at

This is a very popular place in the morning!  Lots of baked goods…both for breakfast and lunch…and a flock of people lined up for something good to eat!

We ordered coffee, a croissant, a chocolate cinnamon roll and a cheddar cheese bun…I’m not sure what they actually called it.  For some terrific and mouthwatering photos of the baked goods and sandwiches offered by the Bear’s Paw Bakery and additional information, go to  The Bear’s Paw Bakery is located at 4 Pyramid Road in Jasper.  Phone: 780-852-3233.   

We spotted this bat clinging to a wall in a narrow passageway in downtown Jasper.  From what I’ve read, this is probably a Little Brown Bat.  You can check out my assumption at:

Laurie really liked this idea…mulching the plantings with small pine cones!  It’s attractive and this mulch is easy to come by in the Canadian Rockies…

These flowers were on display just down the street from the Bear’s Paw Bakery.  Jasper was loaded with floral displays.  We spent a couple of hours walking up and down the main streets of town, checking out the plethora of stores beckoning to passing tourists…

There wasn’t much sunshine in the pictures for this edition of my blog.  So, I decided to end this posting with a nice sunny overview of Jasper and the surrounding mountains as pictured on a postcard!  The town itself is only at an altitude of 3,480 feet.  The population approximates 4,400 residents.
We actually liked Jasper more than we liked Banff… The town was easy to walk or drive through and the crowds were smaller.  There was still plenty to do and see as well as places to eat.  An upcoming post will feature some very fine dining indeed!
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a cloudy and drizzly day of exploring Jasper and the immediate area!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, November 25, 2013

Breakfast at a Local Hardware Store!

Laurie and I had read several comments about a deli in a local hardware store located in Loudon Tennessee that served breakfast and lunch.  On one recent morning, we decided that it was time to check out their breakfast offerings…

This is Sloan’s Village Home Center at TN Hwy. 72 and Hwy. 444 in Loudon Tennessee.  This store sells hardware, lumber/building supplies, has a big lawn and garden operation, a Bass Pro outlet and…their ‘deli’ serves breakfast and lunch! (Note: Laurie and I have learned that any place that makes sandwiches in East Tennessee is called or can be called a ‘deli’.  They are nothing like the true delis that one finds in major metro centers around the USA…
Sloan’s Village Home Center is one of 3 locations that comprise a long-term family owned business.  Other locations can be found in along US Hwy. 411 in Vonore and Madisonville Tennessee.  The store in Vonore has a full service grocery store and all three locations operate either ‘delis’ or a restaurant.  For more information on this family enterprise, you can go to  

Appropriately, the Deli has its own entrance along the side of the building.  It’s the same entrance used by many of the local contractors who purchase their building materials from Sloan’s.  Contractors, lawn service companies and local utility workers, as well as many residents from adjacent Tellico Village provide Sloan’s Deli with lots of business…
Laurie and I can assure you that East Tennessee is a great place to live!  No income taxes, low property taxes, moderate weather, beautiful scenery, reasonable housing costs, etc., all combine for comfortable living.  Tellico Village is just one residential/retirement option in East Tennessee but it is the largest of them all.  To learn more, go to

The main dining area of Sloan’s Deli can best be described as country cozy… There is the rack of snacks, buckets with condiments, a coffee bar on the right hand side, a bit of country décor, a bulletin board with all sorts of messages and business cards plus a miss-mash of seating options and tables.  There is an 'overflow' dining area set up around the corner in the warehouse... 

While there are printed paper versions, this chalkboard displaying breakfast offerings gives you an idea of the deli’s menu.  One positive is that you can easily mix and match items to come up with the breakfast of your choice.  

FYI…Family Pack Specials are offered as is a Boater’s Special. (Tellico Lake is within 200 or 300 yards of the store) The Boater’s Special includes a cooler, 10 lbs. of ice, 6 cans of soda, 16 oz. of potato salad, 16 oz. of coleslaw, and your choice of 4 cold sandwiches, 4 BBQ sandwiches or 4 burgers.  The price ranges from $21.99 for the cold sandwiches up to $29.99 for the burgers.

Here’s another view from inside the dining room at Sloan’s Village Home Center…and deli.  The lumber sign and power tools are part of the ambience.  You place your order at the window at the left of this photo and you’re either called up to pick up your food, or it’s delivered to your table. 

Laurie ‘assembled’ her breakfast from what is really an a la carte menu.  It consisted of 2 eggs over-easy, a nice little stack of bacon, 2 slices of toast and 2 hash brown ‘wedges’.  The bacon was very nice and she enjoyed her breakfast…
The lunch menu is fairly standard and just what one might expect.  Burgers, hot dogs, bologna and cheese, BLT, Philly Steak, BBQ, etc.  It would be hard to go broke here!  A club sandwich, an order of French fries and a small (16 oz.) beverage would set you back $7.27 plus tip and taxes…

I ordered 2 easy-over eggs, rye toast, 2 sausage patties and the ‘hash browns’.  I am not a huge fan of hash brown ‘wedges’…and I wouldn’t order them again.  It’s a personal preference and many people really like breakfast potatoes like these.  The sausage was fine and the eggs were fried correctly.  I must say that this was the best meal I’ve ever had at a hardware store!
There were some specials posted and perhaps that’s how our meal was priced when we checked out.  According to my calculations, (after I revisited the menu at home), breakfast with coffee should have cost $4.99 for Laurie and $5.99 for me. (Very reasonable indeed!) They don’t give you a bill at the Deli…you just walk up to the registers at the front of the store and tell them what you had… I told the cashier exactly what we had and I think that she ended up just ringing up the toast and egg specials for both of us…at $3.69 each!  Maybe our a la carte listing was too much effort to calculate. 
We’ll have to go back and try lunch at Sloan’s Deli…and I’d like to see what their biscuits and gravy are like.  I know that their biscuits are pretty good because when I’ve stopped by for minnows to go fishing, as I checked out, I’ve grabbed a Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuit, ($2.49), from the front register ‘warming station’...and it was good.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by and sharing breakfast with us!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jasper Alberta Canada – For Railroad Fans!

One thing that we didn’t expect when we arrived in Jasper on our trip was the fact that Jasper Alberta, despite being in the middle of a Canadian National Park, is truly a railroad town!  The busiest street in downtown Jasper actually faces the rail yard…


This aerial view of Jasper, (‘borrowed’ from Wikipedia), clearly shows the railroad and rail yards, the latter being the tan area right in the middle of the photo.  It isn’t a bad setting either, is it?!
Jasper is literally part of Jasper National Park and as such, it is considered a ‘specialized municipality’.  Governance is shared between the municipality and the federal Parks Canada agency. 
·        To live here, one must meet certain qualifications: Someone whose primary employment is within the park. (Canadian National rail yard employees and assigned VIA Rail personnel are included in this number)

·        Someone who operates a business in the park AND whose presence is needed for the day to day operations of that business.

·        A retired individual who for five consecutive years immediately prior to retirement was primarily employed within the park, OR operated a business in the park AND whose presence was needed for the day to day operations of that business.

·        Somebody who lived in the park at the time of their retirement, AND who was living in the park on July 30, 1981.

·        Someone who attends school full time at a registered educational institution in the park.

·        An individual or their descendants through blood or adoption, who leased public lands in Jasper prior to May 19, 1911.

·        The spouse of anybody referred to above.
The first piece of rolling stock that we saw in Jasper was this VIA Rail F40PH – 2d.  The EMD F40PH is a four-axle 3,000 hp. B-B diesel-electric locomotive, built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division in several variants from 1975 to 1992. 
The railroad station and freight yard at Jasper Alberta provides a great opportunity for train watching to include VIA Rail Canada passenger trains, Canadian National freights and the occasional Rocky Mountaineer tourist train. 

This beautiful Canadian National Mountain 4-8-2 steam locomotive is on display near the historic railroad depot in Jasper. 
This Mountain Type Class U-1-A was built in 1923 by the Canadian Locomotive Company in Kingston Ontario Canada.  It’s 90 ft. 4 ¼ inches long, stands 15 ft. 3 inches tall and it weighs 577,000 lbs. (288 ½ tons) It was placed on display in Jasper in July of 1972. 

One more photo of this impressive locomotive… It’s too bad that its not still in operation as it would something impressive to see!

The Jasper Railway Station was built by the Canadian National Railroad in 1926 following a fire that burned down the original depot.  This station was declared a heritage railway station by the federal government in 1992.
Established in 1813, ‘Jasper House’ was first a North West Company, and later a Hudson's Bay Company fur trade outpost on the York Factory Express trade route to British Columbia.  Jasper National Park itself was established in 1907. The railway siding at the location of the future town site of Jasper was established by Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1911.  It was originally named Fitzhugh after a Grand Trunk vice president.  The rail yard is still sometimes referred to as the “Fitzhugh Yard”. 

In addition to the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, the Canadian Northern Railway also began service to ‘Fitzhugh’ in 1912.  The town site was surveyed in 1913 and it was subsequently renamed Jasper after the former fur trade post. By 1931, Jasper was accessible by road from Edmonton, and in 1940 the scenic Icefields Parkway opened, connecting Banff and Jasper.

Timing is everything!  As we were checking out the Jasper Train Station, one of the 6 weekly VIA Rail Canada passenger trains came rolling up to the depot.  VIA Rail Canada is an independent crown corporation that offers intercity passenger rail services in most parts of Canada.
Via Rail actually operates 497 trains per week in 8 Canadian provinces. (Exceptions are Newfoundland/Labrador and Prince Edward Island) VIA uses a network of 7,800 miles of track, almost all of which is owned and operated by Canadian National Rail.  VIA Rail carries approximately 4.1 million passengers each year, with the majority of them on routes along the Quebec City–Montreal- Toronto-Windsor corridor.
For information about VIA Rail, as well as its routes and schedules across Canada, just go to

I was pretty impressed at the length of this VIA train!  It seemed to go on and on… The stopover here in Jasper is for an hour and a half… That has to equal a nice burst of sales 6 times a week for the stores that face the railroad tracks…
As I mentioned previously, the Rocky Mountaineer is a Canadian tour company offering Western Canadian vacation packages.  The company operates trains on four rail routes through British Columbia and Alberta. Three different routes start, end or stop at Jasper.

Being located in a National Park and surrounded by wilderness, both the town of Jasper and the rail yard are frequented by local wildlife.  We spotted this healthy looking female Elk walking along the tracks near a road crossing in town. 
Elk are on the top on the list of animals that many wildlife watchers want to see. (Our list is topped by bears…we’ve seen lots of Elk before) Elk are the second largest deer in the park next to moose. Other deer found in the park are caribou, mule deer and white tailed deer.  Elk are also called "wapiti" - Shawnee for "white rump."  FYI…a male elk is correctly called a stag and a female is called a hind.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by and continuing our summer trip with us!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

First Watch Comes to East Tennessee…

Laurie and I are always looking for a new place for breakfast.  It’s sort of a quest we’re on to find ‘perfect’ basic breakfast…  Laurie had eaten at a First Watch in St. Louis and she had very positive memories of her experience. 

This is First Watch – The Daytime Café… This location has recently opened next to a Publix Supermarket and ‘Corks’, a wine shop in Knoxville’s Turkey Creek shopping area. 
The Publix market was a welcome addition to the grocery shopping scene and Corks – Wines and Spirits deserves a visit if you’re in the area.  Ryan McElveen, Corks proprietor has been a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers since 1996.  He really knows his wine, buys small lots from smaller wineries and he doesn’t sell anything that he hasn’t tasted first… Check out Cork at 
But I digress from the subject at hand…

The interior of First Watch is simple and straightforward as well as bright and welcoming… I did see one issue right away, at least from my point of view!  The only hot sauce on hand was Cholula…as shown on the table above.  It’s just not the right hot sauce for me…although I will use it on some foods.  Where’s the Tabasco?

Here’s another interior photo from First Watch… One fact of note is that First Watch is a bit unique in that the restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch.
First Watch is a breakfast, brunch and lunch cafe restaurant chain based in Bradenton, Florida.  This fast growing 105 store chain operates in restaurants in 15 states.  The restaurants are named for the nautical terminology that refers to the first shift of the day aboard ship.  Operating hours are from 7 AM to 2:30 PM.  The First Watch at Turkey Creek in Knoxville is located at 11682 Parkside Drive.  Phone: 865-675-3447.

I’m truly just a basic breakfast guy… I like my meat, potatoes and eggs, preferably with toast, or alternatively, English muffins.  I ended up ordering 2 easy-over eggs, 2 sausage links, the house seasoned potatoes and an English muffin. ($7.99) Coffee was $2.39 and they leave a pot on the table… This was a decent breakfast, but not anything to write home about.  I do prefer hash browns and pork sausage patties which aren’t on the menu.
I do like pancakes and waffles from time to time but I’ve been trying to cut back on the carbs and lose some weight.  Even so, I’d looked at the First Watch website and determined that I was going to treat myself to “Bubba’s Benny”, biscuits sliced in half and covered by sausage and easy-over eggs then covered with sausage gravy…accompanied by the house seasoned potatoes. 
However during my research I failed to note the statement that menus can vary by location. (Franchisee) If I’d looked closer, I would have clicked on the link that showed me the menu for this specific restaurant.

Laurie ordered the Key West ‘Crepeggs’. ($8.89) This was a thin crepe layered with eggs, turkey, avocado, bacon, tomatoes and Monterey Jack cheese. It was topped with sour cream and served with an English muffin, a side of house made salsa and fresh, seasoned potatoes. Laurie really enjoyed her breakfast…
As I wrote this blog, I checked the receipt for prices and I noted that we weren’t charged for her orange juice.  Even so, our total check for breakfast with tax and tip totaled $27.77.
If you’re into mushrooms, avocado, onions, veggies, olives, peppers, etc. as a part of your breakfast, First Watch is for you!  Almost every egg related breakfast offering includes one or more of these ingredients.  Healthy breakfasts plus pancakes, waffles and French toast are also available.
First Watch currently operates more than 100 restaurants in 15 states – with franchised restaurants in Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and licensed restaurants in Arizona.  In a survey of 150,000 Consumer Report readers, First Watch ranked as the best breakfast chain, earning top ratings in taste, service, value, and menu choices.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
We’ll have to return to First Watch for a luncheon experience.  Thanks for stopping by!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave